Newspaper Executives Are Arrested Under Hong Kong Security Law

  • Newspaper Executives Are Arrested Under Hong Kong Security Law

Newspaper Executives Are Arrested Under Hong Kong Security Law

Hong Kong national security police arrested five top editors and executives of the outspoken newspaper Apple Daily and its parent company, and raided the group's offices early Thursday morning in relation to allegations of "collusion with foreign forces".

Apple Daily said Thursday that the company's CEO Cheung Kim Hung, COO Chow Tat Kuen and chief editor Ryan Law, along with the deputy chief editor and online editor were all arrested and accused of colluding with foreign forces to endanger national security - a provision of the sweeping legislation introduced previous year that banned sedition, secession and subversion against Beijing. Others arrested included Cheung Kim-hung, the CEO of Next Digital, which operates Apple Daily, as well as its chief operating officer and two other editors.

More than 200 police officers were involved in the search of Apple Daily's offices, and the government said a warrant was obtained to look for evidence of a suspected violation of the national security law.

China's Hong Kong Liaison Office said on Thursday it firmly supported what it described as the "just action" of the city's police.

Hong Kong Journalists Association Chairman Chris Yeung criticized the arrests and raid in an online news conference, warning that the the national security law was being used as a "weapon to prosecute media executives and journalists for publishing reports and articles that are deemed as a threat to national security".

Apple Daily said in a statement that the move left it "speechless" but vowed to continue its reporting.

"This is a serious blow to press freedom in Hong Kong and a direct attack on the journalistic work of Apple Daily", said Tom Kellogg, the executive director of the Georgetown Center for Asian Law.

A Hong Kong police officer stands outside of the Apple Daily headquarters in Hong Kong on June 17, 2021.

They arrested three top editors and two senior executives of the tabloid owned by Next Digital Ltd founder and democracy activist Jimmy Lai, a fierce critic of Beijing who is now serving more than year in prison for attending unauthorized protests.

He added: "China, which controls Hong Kong, may be able to eliminate the paper, which it sees as an annoying critic, but only at a steep price to be paid by the people of Hong Kong, who had enjoyed decades of free access to information".

He also outlined that the raid on Apple Daily is not meant to be a target on the wider media industry, only relating to one company. His holdings in the company have been frozen on national security grounds.

Lai-who fled China at 12 years old and became one of its fiercest critics-has been serving a separate 14-month sentence for convictions tied to the massive pro-democracy protests that took place in Hong Kong to lash out at what protester saw as Beijing's overreach.

On Thursday morning, trading of Next Digital shares was halted, without any reason being given.

It has criminalised much dissent, given China jurisdiction over some cases and awarded authorities wide-ranging investigation powers.

Those convicted face up to life in prison and the majority are denied bail after arrest.

The raid on Apple Daily immediately drew concern from overseas observers.

Apple Daily's billionaire owner Lai, 73, was charged with collusion after hundreds of officers searched the paper's newsroom last August.

He is now serving multiple jail sentences for attending various protests.

Beijing has made no secret of its desire to see the paper's voice tamed, with state media routinely describing Mr Lai as a "traitor" and a "black hand". The law has been used to arrest over 100 pro-democracy activists since it was first implemented in June past year, and had virtually silenced opposition voices in the city, with many others fleeing overseas. The day marks the 100th anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party's founding and the 24th anniversary of Hong Kong's handover to China from British rule.

At a recent meeting, staff asked Law what they should do if the police came back to arrest him.

He had a simple reply: "Broadcast it live".