Apple Daily closure fails to stop police arresting its journalists

Fung Wai-kong, former columnist and head of the English web page of the pro-democracy newspaper is arrested, the seventh employee in the past 11 days. Journalists Association: we fear there is a list of reporters and opinion leaders to be arrested. March for democracy banned.


Hong Kong (AsiaNews) - Yesterday at the city airport, Hong Kong police arrested a former reporter from Apple Daily the pro-democracy newspaper which closed on June 24 after a series of arrests and an asset freeze for 18 million dollars HK (1.9 million euros).

The police did not reveal the name of the person arrested, however, according to local media reports, he is Fung Wai-kong, former columnist and head of the English web page of the newspaper founded by tycoon Jimmy Lai.

The agents allegedly blocked Fung before he boarded a flight to Great Britain. The 57-year-old journalist is being charged with "collusion" with foreign forces, a crime punishable under the national security law imposed by Beijing on the city a year ago.

Fung is the seventh Apple Daily employee jailed in the past 11 days. On June 17, it was the turn of five executives, including chief executive Ryan Law. On 23 June it was the turn of a 55-year-old columnist who signed himself with the pseudonym "Li Ping": all but two were granted bail. Lai, on the other hand, has been in prison since December: with the leaders in prison or under investigation, and without funds, the daily had to cease activities.

Reacting to Fung's arrest, the Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA) condemned the police for yet again targeting a member of the press. The organization says the series of arrests meant the end of freedom of information in the former British colony. Ronson Chan, president of HKJA, said today he feared the authorities had a list of reporters and commentators to arrest, especially those who wrote for Apple Daily.

Stand News, another pro-democracy publication, announced yesterday that it has taken steps to avoid allegations of a threat to national security. The website will delete all editorials and opinion articles published before May and will no longer accept donations.

The South China Morning Post writes that since the draconian security measure was passed on June 30, 2020, police have arrested 114 residents, including minors. So far there are 61 indicted; the first trial opened last week.

In another blow to the democratic movement, the police banned three other groups from holding the traditional July 1 march. Law enforcement agencies have said that the risks of transmission of Covid-19 are too high: the same justification used to ban the vigil on June 4 for the repression of Tiananmen.

It will be the first time since 2003 that the Democrats will not parade on July 1st; the first march had gathered 500,000 people: it was against an anti-subversion law proposed by the city executive of Tung Chee-hwa.

However, fears about the coronavirus have not stopped preparations for the celebrations of the 100th anniversary of the birth of the Chinese Communist Party, which also falls on July 1st.

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