National security police arrested the editor and four other directors of Apple Daily on Thursday morning and raided the pro-democracy media group’s offices in Tseung Kwan O for the second time in a year to execute a warrant, RTHK reports.
The police confirmed the raid at a “media company in Tseung Kwan O” and arrested four men and a woman on suspicion of colluding with a foreign country or with external elements to endanger national security.
Police said the warrant covered “the power of searching and seizure of journalistic materials.”
The five were detained for investigation and their homes were searched, the police said.
Apple Daily said five of its directors, including editor-in-chief Ryan Law, chief executive Cheung Kim-hung, Chief Operating Officer Chow Tat-kuen, Deputy Chief Editor Chan Puiman and Chief Executive Editor Cheung Chi-wai were arrested in morning raids. The newspaper said that at about 7:30 a.m. about 100 police arrived at its headquarters and cordoned off the area, Reuters reported.
A live stream of the raid on Apple Daily’s social media showed large numbers of police officers entering the building, while others used cones to block part of the road outside. The offices were previously raided in August last year.
Pictures published by Apple Daily showed police sitting at reporters’ desks and using their computers. A person streaming a live feed for Apple Daily’s Facebook page said reporters were prevented from accessing certain floors or getting their equipment or notebooks.
Chief editor Law was seen walking in handcuffs, flanked by police officers. The general news desk at Apple Daily told reporters in a text message seen by Reuters to carry on with their assignments outside the building for the time being.
The newspaper’s founder, Jimmy Lai Chee-ying, is serving a jail sentence for taking part in unauthorised assemblies in 2019. His holdings in the company have been frozen on national security grounds.
Next Digital announced the suspension of trading in its shares ahead of the market opening on Thursday.
Jimmy Lai adviser Mark Simon condemns ‘blatant attack’ on Apple Daily editorial team
An adviser to media tycoon Jimmy Lai Chee-ying said on Thursday the arrests of five people at Apple Daily newspaper was a “blatant attack” on the editorial team.
Mark Simon told Reuters the arrests early on Thursday morning were aimed at the editorial side of the newspaper, not the business side.
Asked how long he thinks the newspaper can survive, Simon said: “It’s not up to us. It’s up to them. There’s 100 police officers in our newsroom. They decide, not us.”
Apple Daily is an unapologetic tabloid that mixes pro-democracy discourse with celebrity gossip and investigations of those in power and is popular in Hong Kong.
In May, Reuters reported that Hong Kong’s security chief sent letters to Lai and branches of HSBC and Citibank threatening up to seven years in jail for any dealings with the billionaire’s accounts in the city. Lai’s assets were also frozen under the same law.
Police raid a heavy blow to HK’s press freedom, says HKJA
The Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA) said on Thursday that the police raid on Apple Daily is a heavy blow to the city’s press freedom.
Chairman of the association, Chris Yeung Kin-hing describes the raid as “horrible”, saying it will spread fear among the news industry.
“If news reporting materials are not protected by the law, self-censorship among journalists will become more and more common,” he said.
Yeung also said the incident shows that under the new national security law, law enforcement agencies’ power was not restrained.
He also said there were no immediate words about which report published by the news tabloid violated the law, urging authorities to make clarifications as soon as possible.
Taiwan expresses anger over Apple Daily raid
Taiwan’s foreign minister Jaushieh Joseph Wu said he is saddened to witness Hong Kong’s police raid on Apple Daily.
Wu wrote on social media today that authoritarianism is waging a brutal war on the Hong Kong news tabloid, a desperately endangered symbol of freedom in Hong Kong.
“I’m out of words to describe my anger and sadness at witnessing this tragedy,” he wrote.
Meanwhile, the Democratic Progressive Party of Taiwan slams Hong Kong authorities for the crackdown on local media.
The party said the raid happened right before July 1, along with using charges including “collusion with foreign or external forces” to intimidate the Hong Kong public.
The party also said the Chinese Communist Party’s crackdown on Hong Kong’s democracy requires constant attention from the international community.
News reporting is no safe haven from law, says security chief
Security secretary John Lee Ka-chiu said on Thursday that the police raid on Apple Daily targets those who use reporting as a tool to endanger national security.
Lee said the force had frozen HK$18 million of assets owned by three companies linked to Apple Daily based on the national security law.
The security chief said everyone in Hong Kong should abide by the law, including the national security law.
“No one should use new reporting as a disguise or safe haven to endanger national security. The SAR government will use all legal measures to prevent, interdict, and suppress such activities,” said Li.
He also added that the assets police had frozen were proceeds of crime, claiming they were “dirty money”.
“It is of international practices to freeze such asset. Members of the public should not have any association with such individuals that endanger national security, or they will bear the consequences,” Lee added.
When asked if the government is taking over the news tabloid, with the newspaper’s assets frozen by authorities, Lee said the newspaper can still control how it will operate.
“The company will not be able to move the HK$18 million of assets, which were suspected to be proceeds of crime, without my approval,” said the security chief.
Lee was speaking after police arrested five executives of the pro-democracy Apple Daily newspaper, and for the first time under a new national security law had a warrant to seize journalistic materials.
Apple Daily reports may have breached security law, says HK national security police
Hong Kong police said on Thursday that officers raided the Apple Daily newsroom after they have published reports suspected to have breached the national security law.
Senior superintendent of police in the national security department, Li Kwai-wah, said the news tabloid has published at least dozens of printed and online reports – in either English or Chinese – since 2019, calling for foreign sanctions on Hong Kong.
Li said there are strong evidence showing that the relevant reporting is essential for
colluding with foreign or external forces to endanger national security, providing excuses for foreign bodies to impose sanctions.
“The nature of the articles is very simple: inciting, requesting foreign countries to impose sanctions on Hong Kong and the People’s Republic of China. Very straightforward,” Li told reporters outside the paper’s headquarters in Tseung Kwan O Industrial Estate.
He said the warrant, which aimed at gathering evidence for a national security case, covers “the power of searching and seizure of journalistic materials.”
Li also added that the arrestees today are all directors of the news tabloid, who are duty-bound to oversee its reporting.
According to Apple Daily, five of its directors, including editor-in-chief Ryan Law, chief executive officer Cheung Kim-hung, Chief Operating Officer Chow Tat-kuen, Deputy Chief Editor Chan Puiman and Chief Executive Editor Cheung Chi-wai had all been arrested in morning raids.
Li said police have also frozen HK$18 million of assets owned by three companies linked to Apple Daily and that the raid was not targeted at the media industry as a whole.