Hong Kong Police Raid Apple Daily, Arrest 5 Executives for 'Foreign Collusion'

Pablo Tucker
June 18, 2021

The arrests of five executives at the pro-democracy Apple Daily under Hong Kong's Orwellian National Security Law "destroy any remaining fiction that Hong Kong supports freedom of the press", said Steven Butler, CPJ's Asia program coordinator, on Wednesday.

Among those arrested were Apple Daily's chief editor, Ryan Law, and Cheung Kim-hung, the chief executive of its publisher, Next Digital.

Police did not name those arrested but confirmed that the five people, aged between 47 and 63, were arrested for "collusion with a foreign country or with external elements to endanger national security". Apple Daily founder Jimmy Lai is now serving a 20-month prison sentence after being convicted of playing a role in unauthorized protests in 2019, when Hongkongers took the streets in massive antigovernment demonstrations in response to a proposed extradition law that would have allowed suspects to stand trial in China.

He said that the court warrant that allowed police to search the offices of Apple Daily had undermined journalists' ability to protect their materials, a vital part of upholding press freedom.

Hong Kong's police chief has repeatedly criticized Apple Daily, accusing it of inciting hatred in society with false reports.

Britain and its allies say the national security law breaches the "one country, two systems" principle enshrined in the 1984 Sino-British treaty that guaranteed Hong Kong's autonomy.

Speaking with AFP last month, chief editor Law admitted that the paper was in "crisis" since the jailing of its owner but said his reporters were determined to press on with publishing.

The U.S. and Japan also spoke out about the arrests. "Efforts to stifle media freedom and to restrict the free flow of information not only undermine Hong Kong's democratic institutions but they also hurt Hong Kong's credibility and viability as an global hub".

They said stories published by the newspaper had been used to help persuade foreign forces to place sanctions on Hong Kong and China.

A features reporter, who gave her surname Chan, said gallows humour had descended over the newsroom in recent months.

Apple Daily's support for the huge and often violent democracy protests that rocked Hong Kong in 2019 infuriated Beijing further, as did Lai campaigning for worldwide sanctions.

Hong Kong Security Secretary John Lee described the newspaper offices as a "crime scene". He said 18 million Hong Kong dollars ($2.32 million) of assets of three Next Digital subsidiaries had been frozen by authorities. "Please keep a distance from them".

Earlier this week the world's richest democracies scolded the Chinese regime over its rights abuses in Hong Kong at the Group of Seven summit, while North Atlantic Treaty Organisation designated Beijing's behavior as a "systemic challenge" to the worldwide order.

The raid and arrests are the latest in a long line of clampdowns targeting dissenting voices since the national security law took effect last July.

Some reporters from the paper told the BBC they planned to continue printing, but they now fear that today's events - both the arrests and the freezing of assets - may mark the beginning of the end for Apple Daily.

Ahead of the start of trading in Hong Kong, Next Digital announced that trading in its shares had been suspended.

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