Hong Kong Charges Apple Daily’s Top Editor Under Security Law

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Hong Kong police formally charged both the editor and publisher of Apple Daily with offenses under the city’s sweeping national security law, according to the Oriental Daily, after authorities arrested the pro-democracy newspaper’s leadership on Thursday.

Ryan Law, editor-in-chief of Apple Daily, and Cheung Kim-hung, the newspaper’s publisher and chief executive officer of parent company Next Digital Ltd., were both charged with colluding with foreign forces under the security law, the Oriental Daily reported on Friday. They may appear in court as soon as Saturday.

Hong Kong Charges Apple Daily’s Top Editor Under Security Law

The police have charged two men with “collusion with a foreign country or with external elements to endanger national security,” the government said in a statement on Friday, without naming the individuals.

Roughly 500 police officers on Thursday descended on the headquarters of Apple Daily, which is owned by the now-jailed democracy activist and Next Digital founder Jimmy Lai. Police searched the company’s offices, barred journalists from their desks and eventually carted away nearly 40 computers belonging to journalists, the paper said. Authorities also arrested Chief Operating Officer Royston Chow and deputy editors Chan Pui-man and Cheung Chi-wai.

Hong Kong’s move to arrest the journalists using the security law -- which bars subversion, terrorism, secession and foreign collusion -- was condemned as an assault on press freedom by foreign governments and rights groups.

Human Rights Watch called the arrests “a new low in a bottomless assault on press freedom,” while Amnesty International said “Hong Kong authorities are ramping up their crackdown on press freedom and using the pretext of ‘national security’ to justify it.”

Hong Kong Charges Apple Daily’s Top Editor Under Security Law

In a statement, the Foreign Correspondents’ Club, Hong Kong, said it was “concerned that this latest action will serve to intimidate independent media in Hong Kong and will cast a chill over the free press,” which is guaranteed under the city’s mini-constitution, the Basic Law.

The U.S. and Japan also spoke out about the arrests.

“We strongly condemn the arrests of five senior executives from Apple Daily and their parent company, Next Digital, and we call for their immediate release,” U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a briefing on Thursday. “Efforts to stifle media freedom and to restrict the free flow of information not only undermine Hong Kong’s democratic institutions but they also hurt Hong Kong’s credibility and viability as an international hub.”

China’s Foreign Ministry office in Hong Kong hit back, saying it “firmly opposed the unwarranted remarks made by a very few Western politicians and foreign media organizations, who vilified the Hong Kong police’s law enforcement actions.”

“The facts are clear and the evidence solid, and the cases have nothing to do with press freedom,” the Chinese statement said. “Some external forces, however, have exploited the cases and distorted the truth, smearing Hong Kong’s press freedom and even spreading rumor about so-called ‘chilling effects.’”

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