HONG KONG (AP) – Five editors and executives of the pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily were arrested on Thursday under the Hong Kong National Security Act, his supplies were cut off, and police searched his offices in moves that raise concerns about the city’s media future.
Apple Daily is known for its strong pro-democracy stance and often criticizes and condemns China and the Hong Kong government for tightening control over the city.
Hong Kong authorities are stepping up crackdown on disagreements after months of massive anti-government protests in 2019.
Apple Daily editor-in-chief Ryan Law, Next Digital CEO Cheung Kim-hang, publisher’s chief operating officer and two other editors have been arrested, Apple Daily, South China Morning Post and other local media reported.
The government said security police arrested five company directors on “suspicion of violating national security laws.”
Four men and one woman between the ages of 47 and 63 were arrested on suspicion of colluding with “a foreign country or with external elements that threaten national security,” the statement said, without giving the names of those arrested.
More than 200 police officers were involved in the search of the Apple Daily office, and the government said an order had been obtained to seek evidence of suspected violations of national security laws.
Trading in Next Digital shares was suspended on Thursday morning, according to a notice on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange. No reason was given for stopping.
When the British surrendered Hong Kong to China in 1997, Beijing promised that the territory where it could retain its freedoms had not been found on land for 50 years.
Critics now say those freedoms are diminishing as China strengthens its territory, following the implementation of a comprehensive national security law banning secession, subversion, terrorism and foreign agreements. The law has been used to arrest more than a hundred pro-democracy figures since it was first implemented in June last year.
Vincent Yu / AP
The arrests of the newspaper’s editors also raised concerns about the future of Hong Kong’s press freedom. This is the second time that Hong Kong police forces have conducted an operation on Apple Daily, and police arrested founder Jimmy Lai and other executives last year on suspicion of violating national security laws or fraud.
Lai is currently serving a 20-month prison sentence for his role in unauthorized assemblies in 2019, at a time when mass anti-government protests have been recorded in Hong Kong. Last month, authorities froze Lai’s assets and shares of Next Digital.