HONG KONG – Weeks after forcing the city’s biggest pro-democracy newspaper to stop publishing and confiscating its assets, Hong Kong police have accused two top editors and two editorial writers at Apple Daily of collusion.
Executive editor-in-chief Lam Man-chung was the eighth executive or journalist at the closed newspaper to be arrested in recent weeks, as city officials crack down on dissent and China’s central government brings the semi-autonomous region under its control. .
Lam was arrested on Wednesday, according to the South China Morning Post newspaper, which cited an unnamed source. Associate publisher and deputy chief editor Chan Pui-man and editorial writers Fung Wai-kong and Yeung Ching-ki were also detained on Wednesday after their bail was canceled, local media reported.
The four were charged with conspiracy to “endanger national security with a foreign country or with outside elements” under the city’s one-year-old national security law. Police confirmed that four people, aged 51 to 57, had been charged, but did not identify them. He will be produced in the court on Thursday.
Chan was among five Apple Daily executives and editors arrested on June 17, while Yeung and Fung were arrested a few days later. Fung was reportedly arrested at the airport while attempting to fly to the United Kingdom.
Hong Kong’s Security Minister Chris Tang denied that the arrest would trigger a “white terror” – a term referring to an atmosphere of fear caused by political repression – among journalists.
“Those who have committed crimes will be arrested regardless of their background, whatever they do or what their profession is,” he said.
“It doesn’t really matter. If they have committed a crime, they will be arrested. And if there is any evidence, they will be prosecuted.”
The Hong Kong Journalists’ Association criticized the “repeated targeting of journalists” from Apple Daily, saying it was “shocked and shocked” by Lam’s arrest as the newspaper had already ceased operations.
The association also asked the government to explain how news and publication works that are done legally and are protected under the city’s mini-constitution, the Basic Law, could endanger national security.
“Freedom of the press and freedom of publication are important cornerstones to the success of an international city,” it said in a statement on its Facebook page.
In June, police raided the offices of Apple Daily, taking hard drives and laptops as evidence. The newspaper ceased operations last month due to the arrest of top executives, editors and journalists, as well as the freezing of assets worth $2.3 million. It sold one million copies of its final version.
After months of anti-government protests in 2019, Beijing last year imposed a sweeping national security law in the semi-autonomous city that critics say restricts the freedoms granted to the former British colony not on mainland China. are found.
The law criminalizes separatism, subversion, terrorism and foreign collusion to interfere in the affairs of the city. Since it was implemented in June last year, more than 100 pro-democracy supporters have been arrested under the law, and many others have fled abroad.