Hundreds of police officers search the Apple Daily group’s headquarters after five senior staff were arrested under the National Security Law, accused of “collusion with foreign forces”. Video: Al Jazeera
Pacific Media Watch newsdesk
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has condemned yesterday’s police raid on Hong Kong media outlet Apple Daily’s headquarters — the second time in less than one year — and has urged the release of the five arrested senior staff.
On 17 June, 2021 independent Hong Kong media outlet Apple Daily’s chief editor Ryan Law, chief executive Cheung Kim-hung, chief operating officer Royston Chow, associate publisher Chan Pui-man and director of Apple Daily Digital Cheung Chi-wai were arrested on suspicion of “conspiracy to collude with foreign forces”, a crime that bears a life sentence under the National Security Law imposed last year by the Chinese regime.
Approximately 500 police officers also raided the media outlet’s headquarters, forcing journalists to leave the newsroom, seizing their computers, phones and other devices.
Authorities have also frozen Apple Daily’s HK$18 million assets (about €2 million).
“Today’s arrests and raid on Apple Daily’s headquarters show that the government will do anything in their power to silence one of the last independent media outlets and symbols of press freedom in Hong Kong”, said Cédric Alviani, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) East Asia bureau head.
He called for “all charges to be dropped and all defendants immediately released”.
This is not the first time that Hong Kong police have raided the media outlet’s headquarters: in August 2020, 200 police officers searched Apple Daily’s premises, blocked its journalists from entering the newsroom and obstructed several major news outlets from covering the incident.
Apple Daily founder Jimmy Lai, 2020 RSF Press Freedom Awards laureate, has been detained since December 2020 and was recently sentenced to a total of 20 months in prison for taking part in three “unauthorised” pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong.
He also faces six other procedures, including two charges under the National Security Law for which he risks life imprisonment.
Hong Kong, once a bastion of press freedom, has fallen from 18th place in 2002 to 80th place in the 2021 RSF World Press Freedom Index.
The People’s Republic of China, for its part, has stagnated at 177th out of 180.
Pacific Media Watch is an associate of Reporters Without Borders.