Hong Kong police raided the offices of pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily on Thursday and arrested five executives, including its chief editor.
The raid and arrests were conducted under the nearly 1-year-old national security law imposed on the semi-autonomous city by Beijing last year. Police said five executives of a company were arrested on suspicion of collusion with a foreign country or with external elements to endanger national security.
Apple Daily said its chief editor, Ryan Law, and four other executives with the newspaper and its parent company Next Digital were arrested.
More than 200 police officers took part in Thursday’s raid on Apple Daily’s offices. Streaming video posted on the newspaper’s Facebook page showed officers cordoning off the building and walking through the newsroom. Police said the warrant authorizing the raid was aimed at gathering evidence of violating the national security law.
Hong Kong Security Minister John Lee told reporters afterward that the raid was aimed at those using journalism “as a tool to endanger national security.”
Steven Butler, the Asia program coordinator for the Committee to Protect Journalists, said the raid and corresponding arrests of the five executives “destroy any remaining fiction that Hong Kong supports freedom of the press.” Butler added that China’s actions to eliminate the paper will come “at a steep price to be paid by the people of Hong Kong, who had enjoyed decades of free access to information.”
This is the second time Apple Daily’s headquarters have been raided by police since the new law took effect. A raid last August came just hours after Jimmy Lai, Next Digital’s founder and owner, was arrested at his house on suspicion of foreign collusion.
Trading in Next Digital’s shares on the Hong Kong stock exchange was suspended Thursday after the raid.
The 73-year-old Lai is currently serving a 14-month prison sentence for taking part in separate unauthorized assemblies in 2019. His assets in Next Digital were frozen by the government last month.
The national security law was imposed by Beijing in response to the violent anti-government protests in 2019. Anyone believed to be carrying out terrorism, separatism, subversion of state power or collusion with foreign forces could be tried and face life in prison if convicted under the law.