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Illustration by Security Management

Hong Kong Police Raid Pro-Democracy Newspaper Offices

Hong Kong authorities cited violations of its national security law as the reason for an early morning raid of a pro-democracy newspaper, Apple Daily, and the subsequent arrest of five of the newspaper’s leaders. 

According to the BBC, “this incident marks the first time Hong Kong journalists have been arrested under suspicion of violating the national security law.”

The Hong Kong police leveled charges of colluding with foreign powers against editors and executives of the newspaper. These arrests mark the first time that the national security law has been used against the press. Police arrested the newspaper’s chief editor Ryan Law, publisher Next Digital CEO Cheung Kim-hung, Next Digital’s chief operating officer, and two other Apple Daily editors. 

“Police said they had evidence that more than 30 articles published by Apple Daily played a ‘crucial part’ in what they called a conspiracy with foreign countries to impose sanctions against China and Hong Kong,” the Associated Press reported

As a result of the raid, which was conducted by approximately 500 officers, police confiscated several items from the newspaper’s offices, including 38 computers with ample journalistic data. According to The Guardianthe operation shows a significant escalation in the government’s use of power over Hong Kong’s media. 

During a press conference, Hong Kong Security Minister John Lee said that the five arrested will be investigated to determine if they assisted in the collusion which allegedly used journalistic activities as a shield for undermining national security. The newspaper allegedly featured “dozens of articles” that encouraged foreign powers to levy sanctions against the Chinese or Hong Kong governments.

“Collusion with foreign powers is one of four broadly worded crimes under the security law, punishable by up to life in prison,” The Washington Post reported. “Other articles in the law since it passed last June have significantly eroded basic freedoms in Hong Kong and removed protections for journalistic activities.”

Apple Daily has been a significant outspoken defender of the city’s freedoms from mainland China, as well as a source of criticism over the stripping of those freedoms, which were promised to last until 2047. The newspaper’s founder, Jimmy Lai, is currently serving a 20-month prison term for participating in a 2019 mass protest. 

According to the city’s National Security Department, authorities also froze HK$18 million ($2.3 million USD) in the newspaper’s corporate accounts.  

“John Lee, Hong Kong’s security secretary, denied the raid and arrests would harm press freedom in the city and cautioned journalists to distance themselves from Apple Daily,” the New York Times reported. “... The Liaison Office of the Central People’s Government, Beijing’s official arm in Hong Kong, described the arrests and asset freezes as just, and made clear that there were limits to the freedom of speech enshrined in the city’s mini-constitution.”