Update: $2.3 million in Apply Daily assets frozen, editor-in-chief and four directors arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to collude with foreign forces: HK national security police
Published: Jun 17, 2021 10:14 AM
Hong Kong citizens on Tuesday gather to support the National Security Law for Hong Kong. Photo: cnsphoto

Hong Kong citizens on Tuesday gather to support the National Security Law for Hong Kong. Photo: cnsphoto

The national security police of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region arrested the editor-in-chief and four directors of the Apply Daily newspaper on suspicion of conspiracy to collude with foreign forces and froze HK$18 million ($2.3 million) in assets during a Thursday morning raid. It is the second time Apply Daily, founded and owned by media tycoon Jimmy Lai Chee-ying, has been raided since the National Security Law came into force. 

Cheung Kim-hung, group chief at Apply Daily parent Next Digital and Ryan Law Wai-Kwong, Apply Daily editor-in-chief were among the arrested, according to Hong Kong media reports. The other three are Next Digital chief financial officer Royston Chow Tat-kuen; Apple Daily associate publisher Chan Pui-man; and Apple Action News platform director Cheung Chi-wai.

The Liaison Office of the Central People's Government in the Hong Kong SAR later on Thursday said in a statement that it supported the efforts made by the SAR government and Hong Kong police to safeguard national security.

The statement stressed that the Basic Law guarantees Hong Kong residents can enjoy freedom of speech, press and publication, but none of the rights and freedoms are borderless, and cannot cross the bottom line of national security, which is also a clear stipulation of relevant international conventions and a general rule in the legal practices of various countries.

Hong Kong is a society under rule of law. Everyone is equal, including media organizations. The freedom of the press is not a "shield" for illegal acts, the Liaison Office said.

About 500 police officers took part in the morning raid. In addition to making the five arrests, the national security police immediately froze HK$18 million in assets owned by Apple Daily. "The assets of three companies have been frozen, Apple Daily Limited, Apple Daily Printing Limited and Apple Daily Intellect Limited," Senior Superintendent of Hong Kong police Steve Li Kwai-wah told reporters after the arrests. 

Li said investigations showed that since 2019, dozens of articles published by Apple Daily have called for sanctions against Hong Kong and the Chinese mainland, in both Chinese and English. 

Our inquiry revealed that, we found that on the newspaper and on the internet version, we found that so far about several, over 30 pieces of articles, which requested foreign countries or institutions to impose sanctions on China and its Hong Kong, in English and Chinese as well, Li told reporters in English.

We have very strong evidence that the questionable articles play a very crucial part for the conspiracy which provides the ammunition for the foreign countries and institutions or organizations to impose sanctions to China and its Hong Kong, Li said. 

Those arrested are the newspaper's owners, directors and editors, and need to be held accountable. More arrests cannot be ruled out, according to Li. 

The five arrested include four men and one woman, aged between 47 and 63. They are suspected of violating Article 29 of the National Security Law, "the crime of conspiring to collude with foreign countries or foreign forces to endanger national security," according to a police release. The police also searched the residences of the five, and detained them for investigation. 

On Thursday morning, the national security police officers also searched the Tseung Kwan O Building of the Apple Daily with a warrant issued by the court in accordance with the National Security Law for Hong Kong. The search warrant granted the police the power to search their news materials, according to Radio Television Hong Kong (RTHK).

The operation aimed to search for evidence for a suspected violation of the National Security Law, and the search is still ongoing as of 8 am Thursday morning, RTHK reported, citing a national security police officer. 

Founder of Next Digital Jimmy Lai was charged with three offenses, including collusion with external forces to endanger national security and conspiracy to pervert the course of public justice. Lai, accused of multiple offenses during the period of Hong Kong's social unrest, has been sentenced to 20 months in jail for illegal assemblies, according to Xinhua News Agency.

A Hong Kong judge on Tuesday transferred Lai's case to the High Court and said the defendant suspected of endangering national security was due to appear in court again on July 27. 

Global Times