Hong Kong police arrest Apple Daily columnist under security law, says media

Hong Kong police arrest Apple Daily columnist under security law, says media

Ryan Law and Cheung Kim-hung, respectively the editor in chief of Apple Daily and CEO of Next Digital, appeared in court Saturday and were charged with conspiring to collude with a foreign country or external elements and were held in jail.

The decision was made after police arrested five editors and executives and froze $2.3 million in assets linked to the paper last week.

Police, which typically do not disclose the names of those arrested, said they arrested a 55-year-old man on those charges.

The paper will stop publishing online from midnight tonight with the final print edition running tomorrow, while the digital version will no longer be accessible after Saturday.

Apple Daily said in an article on Sunday that it may challenge the decision to freeze its assets in court if the city's Security Bureau denies its request.

The defendants were accused of conspiring with Jimmy Lai Chee-ying, an instigator of Hong Kong riots, and others to request a foreign country or an institution, organization or individual outside the mainland, Hong Kong and Macao to impose sanctions or blockade, or engage in other hostile activities against Hong Kong or the country from July 1 of previous year to April 3.

Hong Kong's Judiciary describes trial by jury as one of the most important features of the city's legal system, a common law tradition created to offer defendants additional protection against the possibility of authorities overreaching their power.

More than 100 people have been arrested under the national security law, which Beijing imposed on the city in response to large anti-government protests in 2019.

Last issue of Apple Daily arrives at a newspaper booth in Hong Kong
Last issue of Apple Daily arrives at a newspaper booth in Hong Kong

The closure of Apple Daily is "a big blow to the freedom of the press and freedom of speech in Hong Kong", saidRonson Chan, chairman of the Hong Kong Journalists Assn. The other three were released on bail by police.

The government campaign against Apple Daily, which included raids of its newsroom by hundreds of police officers, caps months of scrutiny of Hong Kong's once-vibrant independent media landscape.

Apple Daily has come under increasing pressure since its tycoon owner and staunch Beijing critic, Jimmy Lai, was arrested a year ago under the contentious legislation.

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said on Tuesday criticism of the raid and arrests amounted to attempts to "beautify" acts that endangered national security.

An adviser for Jimmy Lai, the Hong Kong billionaire and founder of Next Digital, called the raid a "blatant attack".

Police have said dozens of Apple Daily articles were suspected of violating the national security law, the first case in which authorities have cited media articles as potentially violating the legislation.

The newspaper has come under increasing pressure since owner and Beijing critic Lai, who is now in jail, was arrested under the national security law last August and has since had some of his assets frozen.

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