Two newspaper executives are accused of colluding with foreign powers, which has raised alarm bells over media freedoms in the financial center.
Crowds gathered outside a Hong Kong court early Saturday as two executives of the pro-democracy Apple Daily face a charge under the city’s sweeping National Security Act in a case that has sparked a international condemnation.
Editor-in-Chief Ryan Law, 47, and Managing Director Cheung Kim-hung, 59, were among five Apple Daily executives arrested Thursday when 500 police raided the store’s newsroom, which the authorities described as a “crime scene”.
The two arrived in a police van ahead of their hearing.
Both are accused of colluding with foreign powers, which has raised alarm bells over media freedoms in the financial center as authorities escalate crackdowns under the disputed legislation.
The other three, director of operations Chow Tat-kuen, deputy editor-in-chief Chan Puiman and editor-in-chief Cheung Chi-wai, were released on bail Friday evening, according to Apple Daily.
“I have already left Apple Daily for personal and security reasons,” said Chan, 37, former Apple Daily reporter.
“I hope the two defendants can think of themselves first. They also have their families. I have worked with them before. We are like friends.
“Not afraid, keep fighting”
The National Security Law 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 generally describes as secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces up to life in prison.
Police said dozens of newspaper articles were suspected of violating national security law – the first time any news articles were cited as potentially violating the law.
Crowds gathered at dawn on Saturday outside West Kowloon Magistrates’ Courts, some holding yellow umbrellas or wearing Apple Daily t-shirts saying: “No fear, keep fighting”.
.@appledaily_hk CEO Chung Kim-hung and editor-in-chief Ryan Law arrived at court under police escort. Both are accused of #NSL conspiracy of collusion with foreign forces.
Associate editor Chan Pui-man, arrested on the same charge, as the first audience awaiting court hearing. pic.twitter.com/TEpIXU074r
– Galileo Cheng (@galileocheng) June 19, 2021
“Right now you can be accused of NSL because of a word or speech they didn’t like. It’s a big regression, ”said Lo, 29, a popular 26-year-old newspaper reader.
Apple Daily arrests and scale of raid have been criticized by Western countries, global rights groups, news organizations and the UN’s chief human rights spokesperson .
Apple Daily and its listed publisher Next Digital have come under increasing pressure since their owner, Jimmy Lai, pro-democracy activist and fervent critic of Beijing, was arrested last year under the law.
Lai, whose assets have been frozen under the security law, is already in jail for participating in unauthorized rallies and awaiting trial in his national security case.
As investigations into Apple Daily and its senior executives intensify, some employees and observers have expressed growing concern about the newspaper’s future.
Since the law was imposed by Beijing in June last year, more than 100 people have been arrested, most of them refused on bail.