Hong Kong Police Arrest Apple Daily Editor Under Chinese National Security Law
HONG KONG — Hong Kong National Security Police arrested editor of popular pro-democracy newspaper and searched company newsroom in most targeted action involving the journalistic operations of a media organization to date in a year-long crackdown on dissent.
Apple Daily editor-in-chief Ryan Law was pictured on Thursday being taken in handcuffs by officers from his home in the Quarry Bay neighborhood. The raid was the latest in a series of measures against the newspaper group and its publisher, Jimmy Lai, a multi-millionaire critic from Beijing.
Dozens of police officers, armed with warrants they said covered “the power to search and seize journalistic material” under the National Security Act, also raided the Apple Daily newsroom. The newspaper reported that officers were looking into computers and searching desks.
Four other directors of the company were also arrested. Police said all five were suspected of “colluding with a foreign country or with outside elements to endanger national security.”
Steve Li, a senior police superintendent, told reporters the publication conspired with others to call on foreign countries, organizations and individuals to impose sanctions on Hong Kong and China. More than 30 Apple Daily articles were implicated and authorities froze the equivalent of $ 2.3 million from three related companies: Apple Daily Ltd., Apple Daily Printing Ltd. and AD Internet Ltd.
The articles played a crucial role in a conspiracy and provided ammunition for foreign countries or groups to impose sanctions, Li said.
Mr. Lai, the publisher, is currently serving a prison sentence for unauthorized assembly linked to the protests that erupted in the city in 2019. He is also awaiting trial for foreign collusion under the security law.
Last month, Hong Kong police froze Mr. Lai’s assets, including his controlling stake in Apple Daily. Pro-Beijing figures have called on authorities to shut down the newspaper, which has widely covered and supported the democratic movement in Hong Kong.
Press freedoms and other civil liberties in Hong Kong have steadily eroded under the National Security Act, according to freedom advocates and media watchers, as Beijing has made it clear it will not tolerate the dissent and challenges to its power in the city. Thursday’s arrests raised new questions about how journalists can report on pro-democracy groups and protests that may be considered a violation of the National Security Law, imposed by China nearly a year.
The law at large prohibits acts and words considered to promote secession or considered seditious, and convicted offenders can face long prison terms. Most of the city’s opposition leaders have since been jailed or fled the city.
More than 200 officers raided the Apple Daily newsroom last August, although police said at the time they were not focusing on news operations.
In November, authorities lodged a complaint against an investigative journalist with a public broadcaster, sowing chills in the city’s freewheeling media industry.
Other people arrested Thursday, according to an Apple Daily report, included Cheung Kim-hung and Royston Chow, respectively managing director and chief operating officer of Next Digital, which publishes the newspaper, as well as associate editor Chan Pui. -man and a news director named Cheung Chi-wai. Their homes were also searched.
Police cordoned off the newsroom and employees were forced to register at makeshift tables, a live broadcast from the newspaper showed. Journalists already in the office were ordered to leave, and at least one officer was pictured browsing documents on a staff member’s computer, Apple Daily said in a Facebook post. Mr. Li, the police official, said that the officers had to search computers for evidence.
Police officers took personal data from newly arrived employees, but banned them from entering their offices, telling them to leave or only allowing them in the canteen, Apple Daily reported. An Apple Daily reporter filmed the police search from outside the building, peering into the newsroom through thick windows.
Hong Kong advocates have warned that press freedom, which is constitutionally protected in Hong Kong, is quickly undermined under authoritarian Beijing.
Choy Yuk-ling, also known as Bao Choy, a former independent producer of Radio Television Hong Kong, was convicted and fined in April for tracing license plate owners on a public database. The information was included in an investigation report. RTHK, a government-funded broadcaster with a long-standing reputation for independent reporting, has seen sweeping changes this year as a career bureaucrat with no journalism experience was brought to the helm. The broadcaster has since pulled episodes of programs and deleted older shows from their YouTube channel.
A radio show host was arrested under a separate colonial-era sedition law earlier this year.
Write to Elaine Yu at [email protected]
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