Hong Kong police used a sweeping national security law against a pro-democracy newspaper for the first time today, arresting five editors and executives on charges of collusion with foreign powers. They may appear in court as soon as Saturday.
"The action targeted the use of journalistic work as a tool to engage national security". It is the second time that Hong Kong's police force have conducted an operation on Apple Daily, with police arresting founder Jimmy Lai and other executives a year ago on suspicion of national security law violations or fraud. Authorities also arrested Chief Operating Officer Royston Chow and deputy editors Chan Pui-man and Cheung Chi-wai.
Ryan Law (second from right) Apple Daily's chief editor, is arrested by police officers in Hong Kong on Thursday, accused of violating the national security law.
The raid "further demonstrates how the national security law is being used to stifle media freedom and freedom of expression in Hong Kong", EU spokesperson Nabila Massrali said in a statement.
Hong Kong is historically a major worldwide media hub but its press freedom ranking has slipped dramatically in recent years.
The U.S. and Japan also spoke out about the arrests.
A police source confirmed to AFP that all five were executives from Next Digital, Apple Daily's parent company.
Police cited several articles printed in the tabloid and its online edition that they claimed called for foreign sanctions on Hong Kong and China, warning that the public could face prosecution for sharing the reports in question on social media.
"They arrived around 7 am this morning, our building is besieged", an unnamed reporter said in the broadcast.
U.S. Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), in a tweet, called on President Joe Biden and democracies to condemn "this disgusting attack on the free press" and hold the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) accountable. Sen.
This is supposed to protect certain freedoms for Hong Kong: freedom of assembly and speech, an independent judiciary and some democratic rights - freedoms that no other part of mainland China has.
The newspaper's owner, Jimmy Lai, is now serving a 20-month prison sentence after being found guilty of taking part in unapproved pro-democracy protests in 2019. He said 18 million Hong Kong dollars ($2.32 million) of assets of three Next Digital subsidiaries had been frozen by authorities. He added: "Distance yourself from them, otherwise all you will be left with are regrets".
In April 2020, officers arrested media tycoon Jimmy Lai (center) who founded Hong Kong's pro-democracy Apple Daily.
According to Channel News Asia, this spike in print copies was also done when media tycoon Jimmy Lai was arrested in August a year ago.
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. But it promised to continue its reporting. The outlet also said the reporters were prohibited to film or live-stream the raid.
Hong Kong's stock exchange said trading in shares of Next Digital - the publisher of the newspaper - had been halted.
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