Hong Kong authorities stormed the pro-Democracy Apple Daily newspaper Thursday and arrested five executives, including three top editors, and froze the publication’s assets, citing infringements of the city’s national security law.
The raid indicated the determination of the police to suppress media outlets that challenge the Chinese regime and support the democracy initiative for Hong Kong. The seizure of property and arrests defy the principles of the Basic Law, Hong Kong’s version of a constitution which promises and protects freedom of the press.
As justification for the surprise bust, the police used a warrant, permitting them to confiscate “journalistic materials,” under the province’s security law. Personnel made the employee arrests after discovering Apple Daily articles in the company databases, including computers and files, that urged the West to impose sanctions on Chinese and Hong Kong political figures.
“We have strong evidence that the questionable articles play a very crucial part of the conspiracy, which provides ammunition for foreign countries” to levy sanctions penalties, said Li Kwai-wah, senior superintendent of the police force, during a press briefing.
The Hong Kong police’s security unit arrested the five executives at their residences and searched the properties, citing “collusion with a foreign country” as the crime charged, marking the second raid of Apple Daily since the national security law’s passage. The law enumerates collusion with foreign nations as one of four crimes that can earn a maximum sentence of life in prison. Other provisions in the law undermine journalistic liberties and the press’s freedom to report and unearth information valuable to the public.
The raid was documented via video footage, which depicts a swarm of police vehicles arriving at the publication headquarters and officers exiting with boxes of seized materials.
Hong Kong secretary for security John Lee also accused the newspaper’s executives of participating in a conspiracy against the government.
“We are not talking about media or journalist work,” he said. “We are talking about a conspiracy in which suspects try to make use of journalistic work to collude with a foreign country or external elements.”
Officers tried to obscure and sequester employees from their raid operation, moving them to a separate location outside the newsroom, according to anonymous Apple Daily staffers.
“We don’t really know what’s going on inside,” one employee said.
The publication issued a letter to readers that said it was “speechless” at the anti-freedom developments unfolding in an “unfamiliar” Hong Kong.
“It feels as though we are powerless to stop the regime from exercising its power as it pleases,” the letter noted. “Nevertheless, the staff of Apple Daily is standing firm.”
Apple Daily has become one of the last bulwarks standing for the pro-democracy movement and against Chinese aggression.
“Apple Daily has always been a sharp voice with a clear stance,” a reporter at the paper said. “The raid clearly shows that they don’t want such voices to exist.”
The police raid comes after a Hong Kong court handed down sentences for nine dissidents advocating for democracy, eight of which convicted were previously democratically elected to Hong Kong’s legislature. The Chinese regime’s silencing and criminalizing critique as well as abuse of human rights has put pressure on western leaders, such as President Biden, to boycott the 2022 Beijing Olympics in protest.