Hong Kong police arrest newspaper editors for ‘foreign conspiracy'

18 Juin, 2021, 13:56 | Auteur: Therese Cote
  • Police officers gather at the lobby of headquarters of Apple Daily in Hong Kong Thursday

Western governments and lawmakers condemned a Hong Kong police raid on the pro-democracy tabloid Apple Daily on June 17, saying it showed Beijing was using a draconian national security law to suppress dissent and silence free press in the city.

The police separately visited the homes of editor-in-chief Ryan Law, parent company Next Digital's CEO Cheung Kim-hung, COO Chow Tat-kuen, Apple Daily publisher Chan Pui-man and Director Cheung Chi-wai, and arrested them.

They also arrested five executives at the outlet, including its editor-in-chief, on charges of collusion with foreign forces to endanger national security under the controversial law. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), meanwhile, called for the release of the arrested executives, as well the release of Jimmy Lai, the founder of the outlet, who is now in prison awaiting trial in a separate national security trial.

Police said they were acting on evidence.

Speaking to reporters outside Next's offices, Steve Li Kwai-wah, senior superintendent of the police national security department, said the allegations related to over 30 articles published in print and online, in Chinese and English, that he said urged foreign governments and institutions to impose sanctions on Hong Kong and China.

Protests grew to include calls for broader democratic freedoms, but the movement only appeared to harden Beijing's resolve to limit civil liberties in the territory, including by imposing the national security law used in Thursday's arrests.

Once ranked 18th in the world's press freedom index, Hong Kong is now 80th.

The U.S. and Japan also spoke out about the arrests.

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The union representing Apple Daily's journalists described the operation as a "wanton violation of press freedom" that "displayed how much police power has inflated under the national security law". "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 worldwide hub". It said in a statement that the police action left it "speechless".

Apple Daily founder Jimmy Lai is serving a prison sentence for his involvement in unauthorized assemblies in 2019. He said that was an important part of press freedom.

The paper said officers did not allow journalists back to their desks and called the office a "crime scene". Last month, authorities froze Lai's assets and shares in Next Digital.

Mr Lee also added that they were not "normal journalists", calling on others to "keep a distance from them". 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.

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.

Five hundred Hong Kong police officers sifted through reporters' computers and notebooks at the daily.

On Facebook, Apple Daily broadcast live footage and shared photos of the raid.

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

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