HK newspaper raid shows China cracking down on dissent, say EU, UK

Katie Ramirez
June 18, 2021

An official said police also froze $2.3 million in assets belonging to three companies linked to Apple Daily.

Hong Kong's move to arrest the journalists using the security law - which bars subversion, terrorism, secession and foreign collusion - was condemned as an assault on press freedom by foreign governments and rights groups.

Details: The executives were arrested for "collusion with a foreign country or with external elements to endanger national security", per the newspaper and other Hong Kong outlets, including the South China Morning Post.

Human Rights Watch called the arrests "a new low in a bottomless assault on press freedom", while Amnesty International said "Hong Kong authorities are ramping up their crackdown on press freedom and using the pretext of "national security" to justify it".

Apple Daily said Thursday that the company's CEO Cheung Kim Hung, COO Chow Tat Kuen and chief editor Ryan Law, along with the deputy chief editor and online editor were all arrested and accused of colluding with foreign forces to endanger national security - a provision of the sweeping legislation introduced past year that banned sedition, secession and subversion against Beijing.

Police said the newspaper called on foreign organizations to impose sanctions on Hong Kong and China through more than 30 articles it published dating back to 2019.

Hong Kong's stock exchange said trading in shares of Next Digital - the publisher of the newspaper - had been halted. "Their violation of the security law is doing stories the Chinese Communist Party doesn't want written".

During Thursday's raid, police stopped journalists from taking photographs or videos, Apple Daily reported.

Hong Kong Security Minister John Lee told a news conference that police will investigate those arrested and others to establish if they have assisted in instigating or funding the offenses.

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Just days after the world's richest democracies scolded China over human rights at a Group of Seven summit and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation military alliance warned Beijing over its ambitions, Hong Kong police made dawn arrests of Apple Daily newspaper executives.

Those convicted of a national security crime face up to life in prison and the majority are denied bail after arrest. In just a few years Apple Daily was printing 400,000 copies a day.

Apple Daily's support for the huge and often violent democracy protests that rocked Hong Kong in 2019 infuriated Beijing further, as did Lai campaigning for worldwide sanctions.

He is now serving multiple jail sentences for attending various protests.

Beijing has made no secret of its desire to see the paper's voice tamed, with state media routinely describing Mr Lai as a "traitor" and a "black hand".

Until Thursday's raid, authorities had left the company's assets alone.

What is the national security law?

"The staff of Apple Daily is standing firm".

More than 100 people have been arrested under the security law, many of them the city's best-known democracy activists. The newspaper has always been one of the most outspoken defenders of Hong Kong's freedoms and in recent years has often criticized the Chinese and Hong Kong governments for walking back promises that the territory could retain those freedoms for 50 years after the former British colony was handed over to China in 1997. Others have fled overseas.

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