Hong Kong police raided a pro-democracy newspaper on Thursday and arrested five officials at the publication.
Hundreds of officers were involved in a search of computers and notebooks used by reporters at Apple Daily.
Hong Kong Security Secretary John Lee described the newspaper offices as a “crime scene.” He said the operation was aimed at individuals at the publication who use reporting as a “tool to endanger” national security.
Police said they were acting on evidence. They said stories published by the newspaper had been used to help persuade foreign forces to place sanctions on Hong Kong and China.
The raid was carried out under a national security law passed in June 2020 by the government in Beijing. Critics of the law say it seeks to silence dissent and crush freedoms promised to Hong Kong when it was passed to mainland China in 1997. Rights of the territory’s citizens were to be guaranteed under its Basic Law for 50 years.
Apple Daily has long been one of the most outspoken defenders of Hong Kong's freedoms. It said in a statement that the police action left it “speechless.” But it promised to continue its reporting. The newspaper said 38 of its computers had been seized by police.
Among those arrested were Apple Daily’s chief editor, Ryan Law, and Cheung Kim-hung, the chief executive of its publisher, Next Digital. An official said police also froze $2.3 million in assets belonging to three companies linked to Apple Daily.
The newspaper’s owner, Jimmy Lai, is currently serving a 20-month prison sentence after being found guilty of taking part in unapproved pro-democracy protests in 2019. His assets have also been frozen under the national security law.
The Chinese government's representative office in Hong Kong said in a statement that it supported the action. It noted that while the city's Basic Law guarantees the freedoms of speech and the press, those rights cannot conflict with the “bottom line of national security.”
“Freedom of the press is not a ‘shield’ for illegal activities,” the office said.
The head of the Hong Kong Journalists Association, Chris Yeung, criticized the raid and arrests in an online news conference. The national security law, he warned, was being used as a “weapon” against media officials and reporters.
He added that the court order permitting police to raid Apple Daily had violated the reporters’ ability to protect their materials. He said that was an important part of press freedom.
“Self-censorship will get worse if journalists are not sure whether they are able to protect their sources of information,” said Yeung.
I’m Bryan Lynn.
The Associated Press and Reuters reported on this story. Bryan Lynn adapted the reports for VOA Learning English. Mario Ritter, Jr. was the editor.
We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments section, and visit our Facebook page.
Words in This Story
sanction – n. a punishment for not obeying a rule or law
asset – n. something a person or company owns that has value
bottom line – n. the most important fact in a situation
shield – n. a person or thing used as protection
censorship – n. the system or practice of censoring books, movies, letters, etc.
source – n. where something comes from