Hundreds of police officers raided the offices of a pro-democracy Hong Kong newspaper on Thursday as China continues its crackdown on freedoms in the territory.
The newspaper, Apple Daily, said five editors were arrested for violating a Chinese national security law that bans “collusion with a foreign country or with external elements to endanger national security,” according to Fox News.
An advisor for Jimmy Lai, who founded Next Digital, Apple Daily’s parent company, and who has been tossed into prison himself, called the raid a “blatant attack.”
“They are arresting editors,” the advisor, Mark Simon, said. “They’re arresting the top editorial folks.”
Chinese authorities passed the sweeping national security law in June 2020, imposing new restrictions on pro-democracy activists and on what had once been a freewheeling media environment in Hong Kong.
“But today’s actions are still shocking,” said Yuen Chan, who previously worked for Hong Kong media outlets, according to The New York Times. “We have to remind ourselves that until very recently, a free press was regarded as normal in Hong Kong.”
Hong Kong also suspended trading of Next Digital’s shares and froze its accounts, The Times reported.
“We’re having an incredibly tough time. I don’t know what’s going to happen,” Simon said. “I think they’re going to keep coming and coming.”
Hong Kong authorities said the journalists got what they deserved.
“We have very strong evidence that the articles in question play a crucial part in the entire conspiracy scheme, providing talking points to foreign countries or overseas institutions to impose sanctions,” said Li Kwai-wah, a senior superintendent in the police’s national security department.
Li issued a warning to the general public as well.
“As a law enforcer, I would advise you not to invite suspicion,” he said.
John Lee, Hong Kong’s security secretary, told journalists to distance themselves from Apple Daily.
“This action has nothing to do with normal journalism work,” he said. “It is aimed at suspected use of journalism as a tool to commit acts that endanger national security. Normal journalists are different from them. Don’t get involved with them, and keep a distance from them.”
The Liaison Office of the Central People’s Government, China’s official office in Hong Kong, said freedom is not unlimited.
“There are no rights and freedoms without boundaries. None can breach the bottom line of national security,” the office said in a statement.
The move added to concerns that media freedom in Hong Kong is on the way out.
“We just can’t see how articles or reports carried by news media would constitute a threat to national security,” said Chris Yeung, chair of the Hong Kong Journalists Association. “It gives rise to fear that speech can be seen as acts and are vulnerable to the national security law.”
Journalists vowed not to surrender while admitting they were in a fight they could not win.
Hang in there, Apple Daily.
— Fight For Freedom. Stand With Hong Kong. 重光團隊 (@Stand_with_HK) June 17, 2021
“As difficult as the current circumstances may be, we will carry on with our jobs with the aim to publish our papers as normal tomorrow,” the Next Media Trade Union said in a statement.
“Today’s Hong Kong feels unfamiliar and leaves us speechless,” Apple Daily said in a letter to its readers. “It feels as though we are powerless to stop the regime from exercising its power as it pleases.”
“Though we are facing a sweeping clampdown on our publication, the staff of Apple Daily will hold fast to our duties faithfully and press on till the end to see the arrival of dawn.”
Truth and Accuracy
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.