Hong Kong police on Thursday arrested five executives of Apple Daily, a pro-democracy newspaper, for alleged foreign collusion, the daily said.
According to an Apple Daily report, hundreds of police officers raided their office early morning and arrested Chief Executive Officer Cheung Kim-hung, Chief Operating Officer Royston Chow, Chief Editor Ryan Law, Associate Publisher Chan Pui-man and Digital Platform Director Cheung Chi-wai.
Apply Daily is owned by the media tycoon Jimmy Lai Chee-ying, who was arrested last year and accused of multiple charges under the new National Security Law.
Steve Li, senior superintendent of the national security unit, said the daily published over 30 articles online and in print which sought foreign sanctions on China over the new security law.
“The questionable articles play a very crucial part in the conspiracy,” the daily quoted Li as saying, adding that authorities have frozen $2.32 million in assets belonging to Apple Daily Limited, Apple Daily Printing Limited and AD Internet Company.
Li accused the paper of using “journalism as a tool to endanger national security” and an “umbrella” to protect itself.
Journalists vow to carry on duties
Lam Man-chung, executive editor-in-chief of the daily, said that police targeted the offices of editorial managers and took away their computers and a number of documents and news materials.
He added that he is unsure when the operation would end and to what extent the confiscation would affect the editorial work, but Apple Daily will do its best to publish as usual.
Meanwhile, the Next Media Union, which comprises employees working for the group, condemned the raid and termed it “blatant violation of press freedom”.
“As difficult as the current circumstances may be, we will carry on with our jobs with the aim to publish our papers as normal tomorrow,” the union said in its statement.
"By merely suggesting some past news articles have breached national security law NSL, they [police] can treat editorial staff as criminals, journalistic work as crimes and newsroom as a crime scene,” the statement read.
Last year, Hong Kong authorities carried out sweeping arrests under the security law that included the detention of media tycoon Jimmy Lai Chee-ying and nine others.
Apple Daily tabloid founder Lai, his two sons, and seven others, including journalists and activists, were accused of “foreign collusion” before being released on bail.
The police action came after China implemented its national security law in the semi-autonomous region on July 1, 2020.
The law criminalizes anti-China sentiments in the region, which continued to serve as a vibrant economic hub after the UK handed it over to Beijing in 1997 under a vow that it would enjoy a "high level of autonomy" for 50 years.