Hong Kong police arrested on Thursday, June 17, the editor-in-chief of the Apple Daily newspaper, and four other executives on charges of “colluding with foreign forces,” an offense under the national security law imposed by the Chinese regime in Hong Kong.
In the name of the drastic national security law, these arrests are the latest setback against the popular newspaper and its imprisoned owner, tycoon Jimmy Lai, one of the most outspoken critics of the interference of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in the former British colony.
On this occasion, hundreds of police raided the building where the pro-democracy Apple Daily newspaper is edited and published, according to Reuters.
Employees said they asked the police what legal basis they had for entering. However, these questions were largely ignored as more than 200 police arrived as a live feed of the unfolding drama shows.
Police officers confiscated journalists’ computers and seized a large amount of journalistic material after raiding the headquarters of Apple Daily, the same Hong Kong newspaper reported.
Most of the operation centered on the second floor of the newsroom, where the editorial office was located. Officers searched the computers of the news staff, designers, and video editors.
In the video that recorded the raid, Apple Daily editor-in-chief Ryan Law, who was helping to film and comment on the Facebook Live stream, could be seen running through the building as he tried to report on the events that occurred in his own newsroom.
“This is, I think, the first time in Hong Kong that the police have launched a mass search in a media outlet like this,” he said as he climbed a back staircase with a colleague to get around a crowd of police.
As news of the raid spread, more than 10,000 people tuned in and watched Law defy police warnings to stop filming.
Several executive offices, including Lai’s, were sealed off with a red cordon and guarded by police.
Hong Kong Security Law
The controversial law is criticized by people and governments around the world for severely limiting freedom of speech in Hong Kong. But not only that, it allows authorities to apprehend suspects from Hong Kong and try them in Mainland China, where it is known to be a dictatorship and there are no transparent legal processes.
In addition, this law, which came into force on June 30, 2020, provides for creating a kind of “secret police,” acting directly under the orders of the CCP, putting the territory under the same authoritarian rules as Mainland China.
The law defines as punishable offenses: “secession, subversion, organization and perpetration of terrorist activities, and collusion with a foreign country or external elements to endanger national security.”
After the former British colony came under the rule of the Chinese regime in 1997, in the so-called “one country, two systems,” pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong have long-held numerous demonstrations, complaining about the loss of freedoms and warning of surveillance in the city by the Beijing authorities.
These complaints of encroachment on civil liberties have increased since the enactment of the National Security Law in 2020. A large number of pro-democracy activists have been arrested under that law.
Following this episode at Apple Daily, lawyers and media professionals fear for the safety of journalists reporting in Hong Kong. They are baffled by the absence of a clear line to demarcate what constitutes a “national security violation” in press coverage.