Hong Kong police arrest Apple Daily directors

Joanna Estrada
June 17, 2021

He is now serving more than a year in prison for attending unauthorized protests and faces additional charges under the security law.

"We will try all our best to publish newspapers for tomorrow", executive chief editor Lam Man-chung, who was not among those arrested, told AFP.

Those arrested Thursday included Apple Daily's chief editor Ryan Law; the CEO of its publisher Next Digital, Cheung Kim-hung; the publisher's chief operating officer; and two other top editors, according to the newspaper.

Apple Daily is owned by Jimmy Lai, who is already in jail for a string of other protest-related charges while awaiting trial in a national security case.

Hong Kong police have arrested five executives of the pro-democracy Apple Daily newspaper, including its chief editor, for alleged violation of China's national security law imposed on the territory.

Hong Kong Journalists Association chairman Chris Yeung said in an online news conference that the arrests and raid on Apple Daily could create a chilling effect on society. The law has been used to arrest over 100 pro-democracy activists since it was first implemented in June previous year, and had virtually silenced opposition voices in the city, with many others fleeing overseas. The result is that it has virtually silenced opposition voices in the city - and drawn sanctions from the US against Hong Kong and Chinese government officials.

"Hong Kong has been left with little free speech under the NSL (national security law), which aims to silence all dissent".

"This is the worst of times in Hong Kong", the letter read.

"Our actions are not targeting press freedom or journalistic work", he added.

The security law is the speartip of a sweeping crackdown on Beijing's critics in Hong Kong since 2019's huge democracy protests.

A police source confirmed to AFP that all five were executives from Next Digital, Apple Daily's parent company.

Police haven't disclosed details about the articles in question, leading to fears that Beijing will use the vaguely worded national security law to potentially throw journalists in jail for any critical reporting. According to Apple Daily, police officers prevented the paper's journalists from working at their desks and accessed reporters' computers.

It is the first time the content of media reporting has sparked arrests under the security law. It prohibits "separatism, subversion, terrorism and foreign interference" in Hong Kong.

Trading in shares of Next Digital was halted Thursday morning at the request of the company, according to filings with the Hong Kong stock exchange.

National security police said in a statement that five directors of a company had been arrested on suspicion of collusion with a foreign country or with external elements to endanger national security.

Steve Li, superintendent of Hong Kong's national security unit, speaks to local media in Hong Kong on June 17, 2021.

Police said they had strong evidence that more than 30 articles published by Apple Daily played a "crucial part" in a conspiracy with foreign countries to impose sanctions against China and Hong Kong, in response to a crackdown on civil liberties in the semi-autonomous Chinese city.

"No matter what kind of professional status and background they have, no matter what kind of support they have behind them, anyone who violates the Hong Kong National Security Law and relevant laws will be severely punished by the law".

It was the first time Hong Kong authorities have used the law to freeze shares of a listed company's majority shareholder. Additionally, he asked that "normal journalists" keep their distance from the "criminals" at Apple Daily. In a letter to readers, the paper said police took away 38 computers with news materials.

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

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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