Press release June 17, 2021
Hong Kong: Freedom House Condemns Arrests, Raid on Apple Daily Newspaper
The police raid on independent outlet Apple Daily reflects rapidly growing pressure on Hong Kong’s democracy and autonomy
In response to the arrest of executives and news staff at Apple Daily, including the editor in chief, on national security charges, Freedom House issued the following statement:
“The newsroom raid and arrest of Apple Daily staff reflect an acceleration of Hong Kong authorities' systematic efforts to transform the territory's institutions into authoritarian extensions of the Chinese Communist Party,” said Michael J. Abramowitz, president of Freedom House. “Treating independent, fact-based journalism as a threat to national security is an unacceptable attack on press freedom and comes amid a wider crackdown on freedom of expression and freedom of assembly in Hong Kong. Since the implementation of the National Security Law last June, and nearly 24 years since the territory’s handover from the United Kingdom to China, Hong Kong has been transformed by the severe erosion of human rights and fundamental freedoms.”
“Democratic nations should not only publicly condemn the Hong Kong authorities’ relentless pace of arrests on dubious national security charges, but back up their statements with coordinated, tangible support for civil and human rights in Hong Kong,” Abramowitz added.
On June 17th, 500 officers of the Hong Kong Police Force raided the newsroom of Apple Daily, arresting two executives of publisher Next Media along with three news staffers on charges of “collusion with a foreign country or with external elements to endanger national security” under the National Security Law (NSL). The arrested individuals—chief executive officer Cheung Kim-hung, chief operating officer Royston Chow, editor in chief Ryan Law, associate publisher Chan Pui-man, and Apple Daily Digital platform director Cheung Chi-wai—face potential life sentences. Authorities accused Apple Daily of publishing approximately 30 articles since 2019, prior to the NSL’s implementation, that called for foreign sanctions to be lodged against Hong Kong and China. Police confiscated 38 computers containing journalistic material and froze HK$18 million (US$2.3 million) in corporate assets.
This was the second such raid on Apple Daily. In August 2020, police arrested Apple Daily owner Jimmy Lai for violating the NSL and raided the outlet’s newsroom. Lai has been detained since December 2020 over fraud-related accusations while he awaits trial. In April 2021, he was convicted of organizing and knowingly taking part in an unauthorized assembly in 2019, when 1.7 million Hong Kongers attended peaceful prodemocracy demonstrations in defiance of a police ban.
Authorities have recently taken other actions that threaten press freedom, including the muzzling of Hong Kong’s public broadcaster, Radio Television Hong Kong, the April conviction of journalist Bao Choy for accessing a government database to investigate the 2019 Yuen Long attack, and the development of so-called "fake news" legislation that could be used to restrict journalists’ access to information or stifle independent reporting.
Hong Kong is rated Partly Free in Freedom in the World 2021. China is rated Not Free in Freedom in the World 2021 and Not Free in Freedom on the Net 2020. Freedom House is following Hong Kong’s deteriorating conditions and their global implications in the monthly China Media Bulletin, along with the territory’s December Legislative Council elections in Election Watch for the Digital Age.
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