According to eight media workers groups, police officials arrested five editors and senior executives from Apple Daily on Thursday Jun 17th. Also, police seized materials at the newspaper’s headquarters during the arrest. The groups say the arrest undermines the city’s press freedom and will have a chilling effect on Hong Kong’s media.
Thursday’s the large-scale operation by Hong Kong police at Next Media’s office was more invasive than the one last August.
Early morning raid
At 7 am on Thursday, around 500 police were deployed to raid New Media’s headquarters as well as several residential flats. The results of the raid are the arrests of the newspaper’s editor-in-chief Ryan Law, deputy editor Chan Pui-man and CEO Cheung Chi-wai. Also, others under arrest are Next Digital’s chief executive Cheung Kim-hung and chief operating officer Chow Tat-kuen.
“On the newspaper and on the Internet version, we found so far about over 30 pieces of articles, which requested foreign countries or institutions impose sanctions on Hong Kong and China, in English and Chinese as well,” police Senior Superintendent Steve Li said after the operation.
No details about the articles were disclosed. Nevertheless, Li did suggest the public could face charges for sharing the articles on social media.
Freeze on assets
Apple Daily Limited, AD Internet Limited and Apple Daily Printing Limited had their assets totalling HK$18 million immediately frozen. The freeze came from the Secretary for Security, John Lee.
Also, Lee informed the public and media to cut ties with several Apple Daily executives held under the National Security Law. He warned that people who fail to do so “would regret it”. The warning is unrelated to press freedom. However, it becomes a criminal act when people violate the National Security Law.
The first raid
Around 200 police officers entered and searched the headquarters of Next Media, which publishes the Apple Daily, in Tseung Kwan O on August 10th last year.
Officers tried to examine news documents in the editorial department. However, Next Media’s staff stopped them. The search warrant clearly stated an exclusion of news materials in the building from the search.
Hong Kong Journalists Association speaks out
Chris Yeung, chairperson of the Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA), said officers searched desks and phones used by journalists.
Yeung said “It is difficult to describe in words how horrible the situation of Hong Kong’s press freedom is.”
“In the past, courts have checks and balances on whether law enforcement departments should be granted a warrant to search a news organization. Such restraint no longer exists now.”
Yeung said if people felt that they could not remain anonymous, they would be hesitant to talk to journalists. According to him, Apple Daily faced accusations of publishing dozens of articles calling for sanctioning Hong Kong and China. However Yeung said these articles might not necessarily represent the view of the media.
HKJA urges the government to elaborate on how Apple Daily’s articles have endangered national security. HKJA, the Next Media Trade Union and six other media worker groups issued a statement. It said that they were shocked by the police operation. The result of such action is the arming the national security law against the media.
Statement from Chinese government’s Liaison Office
A statement issued from the Chinese Liaison Office in Hong Kong supports the police raid of Apple Daily’s headquarters. It said, “Freedom of the press is not a ‘shield’ for illegal activities”.
18h June 2021 23:00
This article brought to you by Legacy Times 传城时代