Hong Kong Police Raid Apple Daily, Arrest 5 Executives for 'Foreign Collusion'

Hong Kong Police Raid Apple Daily, Arrest 5 Executives for 'Foreign Collusion'

Hong Kong national security police arrested five top editors and executives of the outspoken newspaper Apple Daily and its parent company, and raided the group's offices early Thursday morning in relation to allegations of "collusion with foreign forces".

Those arrested include Next Digital Chief Executive Cheung Kim-hung and Chief Operating Officer Royston Chow, as well as Ryan Law, Apple's chief editor.

At around 11 a.m. local time, Steve Li, superintendent of Hong Kong's national security unit, told local media that Hong Kong authorities had frozen about $2.32 million ($18 million HKD) in assets from three companies linked to Apple Daily.

Last month, police used the national security law to freeze Mr Lai's bank accounts and his majority shares in Next Digital. It is unclear whether Apple Daily will now be able to pay its staff.

He faces three charges under the new law, including collusion with a foreign country. Apple Daily founder Jimmy Lai is now serving a 20-month prison sentence after being convicted of playing a role in unauthorized protests in 2019, when Hongkongers took the streets in massive antigovernment demonstrations in response to a proposed extradition law that would have allowed suspects to stand trial in China.

A Hong Kong police officer stands outside of the Apple Daily headquarters in Hong Kong on June 17, 2021.

Hong Kong Journalists Association chairman Chris Yeung said in an online news conference that the arrests and raid on Apple Daily could create a chilling effect on society.

They arrested three top editors and two senior executives of the tabloid owned by Next Digital Ltd founder and democracy activist Jimmy Lai, a fierce critic of Beijing who is now serving more than year in prison for attending unauthorized protests. "We target conspiracies that threaten national security".

Numerous metro passengers were on their way home after taking part in a mass protest against an extradition bill that would have paved the way for people in Hong Kong to be sent to mainland China if accused of a crime and tried under the communist party's judicial system.

Ahead of the start of trading in Hong Kong, Next Digital announced that trading in its shares had been suspended.

It has criminalised much dissent, given China jurisdiction over some cases and awarded authorities wide-ranging investigation powers.

He has been in jail since December after being denied bail in a separate national security trial.

Thursday's raid was the second on Apple Daily in less than a year.

Apple Daily broadcast live footage of the raid showing officers searching the newsroom and looking through journalists' computers. He is serving a prison sentence.

Beijing has made no secret of its desire to see the paper's voice tamed, with state media routinely describing Lai as a "traitor" and a "black hand" and senior communist party officials already declaring him guilty. Thursday's raid will do little to temper the concerns of many in the city about their freedoms and future. The newspaper has always been one of the most outspoken defenders of Hong Kong's freedoms and in recent years has often criticized the Chinese and Hong Kong governments for walking back promises that the territory could retain those freedoms for 50 years after the former British colony was handed over to China in 1997.

The legislation outlaws secession, subversion, terrorism and foreign collusion and has been used to arrest over 100 pro-democracy figures since it was first implemented a year ago, with many others fleeing overseas. Scores of others have fled overseas.

Speaking with AFP last month, chief editor Law admitted the paper was in "crisis" since Lai's jailing but said his reporters were determined to press on with publishing.

At a recent townhall meeting, staff asked Law what they should do if the police came back to arrest him.

"Broadcast it live", he said.

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