Two newspaper officials are accused of collusion with foreign powers, which raises alarm about the freedom of the media in the financial center.
Crowds gathered outside a Hong Kong court early Saturday when two executives of the pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily face a charge under the city’s national security law, in a case that has drawn international condemnation. .
Editor-in-chief Ryan Law, 47, and CEO Cheung Kim-hung, 59, were among five Apple Daily executives arrested Thursday when 500 police officers raided the outlet’s newsroom, which authorities described like a “crime scene”.
The two arrived in a police van before the hearing.
Both are accused of collusion with foreign powers, raising alarm over media freedom in the financial center as authorities intensify repression under controversial legislation.
The other three, COO Chow Tat-kuen, Deputy Editor-in-Chief Chan Puiman and Executive Editor-in-Chief Cheung Chi-wai, were released on bail Friday night, according to Apple Daily.
“I have already left Apple Daily for personal and security reasons,” said Chan, 37, a former Apple Daily reporter.
“I hope the two defendants can think of themselves first. They also have their families. I worked with them before. We are like friends.”
‘Without fear, keep fighting’
The National Security Act imposed by Beijing in 2020 on the former British colony has brought an authoritarian tone to most aspects of life in Hong Kong, including education and the arts.
It punishes what Beijing broadly refers to as secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces with up to life in prison.
Police said dozens of newspaper articles were suspected of violating national security law, the first time media articles have been cited as potentially contrary to the law.
Crowds gathered at dawn Saturday in front of the West Kowloon Magistrates Courts, some with yellow umbrellas or Apple Daily T-shirts saying, “Fear not, keep fighting.”
Associate editor Chan Pui-man, arrested on the same charge, as the first audience in line to hear the court. pic.twitter.com/TEpIXU074r
– Galileo Cheng (@galileocheng) June 19, 2021
“Right now, they can charge you with NSL for a word or speech that they didn’t like. It’s a huge regression, ”said Lo, 29, a 26-year-old reader of the popular newspaper.
The arrests and the scale of the Apple Daily raid have been criticized by Western nations, global rights groups, press associations and the UN’s chief spokesperson for human rights.
Apple Daily and its listed publisher, Next Digital, have come under increasing pressure since their owner, pro-democracy activist and staunch critic of Beijing, Jimmy Lai, was arrested last year in under the legislation.
Lai, whose assets have been frozen under security law, is already in jail for participating in unauthorized meetings and awaiting trial in his national security case.
As investigations of Apple Daily and its top executives mount, some employees and observers have expressed growing concern about the future of the newspaper.
Since Beijing imposed the law in June last year, more than 100 people have been arrested, and most have been denied bail.