Five, including the chief editor of the newspaper owned by pro-democracy magnate Jimmy Lai are taken. They are charged with conspiring with foreign forces to threaten national security. More than 200 policemen searched the editorial office. Assets for 1.9 million euros of the publishing company are frozen. Concern for press freedom.
Hong Kong (AsiaNews / Agencies) - This morning the national security police arrested five executives of Apple Daily, the independent newspaper of democracy magnate Jimmy Lai. Those arrested include the chief editor of the newspaper Ryan Law, his deputy Chan Pui-man and the executive director Cheung Chi-wai. The others arrested are Cheung Kim-hung and Chow Tat-kuen, two managers of Next Digital, the holding company that publishes the newspaper.
The police arrested the five in their homes. They are charged with conspiring with foreign forces to threaten national security: one of the crimes envisaged by Beijing’s security provision that was introduced last year. The authorities are targeting more than 30 articles that the police say call for sanctions against the Hong Kong executive and the central Chinese government.
More than 200 policemen instead carried out a raid on the offices of Apple Daily; during the operation, journalists were prevented from approaching their posts.
The anti-establishment tabloid had undergone a search as early as August. Jimmy Lai has been in prison for months accused of crimes against national security and for having participated in two unauthorized demonstrations in August 2019.
The prosecutor also accuses him of illegally sub-letting some premises destined for Next Digital. The offices are located in a building owned by the Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corporation, a state-funded entity. In May, the national security police seized 70% of his shares in Next Digital from the democratic activist.
Steve Li, senior commissioner of the national security, announced that authorities have frozen Apple Daily assets for HK $ 18 million (€ 1.9 million). Immediately after the arrests, Next Digital suspended trading on the stock exchange.
The citizen association of journalists has expressed concern over the raid and the arrests. Its president Chris Yeung objected that journalism could contravene the national security law. He also objected to the confiscation of journalistic material, noting that the search order shows that press freedom in Hong Kong is being seriously eroded.