Yet another repression in the autonomous territory in south-east China under the “national security law” wanted by Beijing
The police operation that led to the arrest of five executives of the pro-democracy tabloid Apple Daily, including its director Ryan Law, began at 7.30 (local time). The magazine is owned by tycoon and prominent activist Jimmy Lai, who has been in jail since last December.
The raid saw 500 policemen in action who searched the editorial office, also inspecting the computers of journalists, thanks to a mandate that allowed them “to search for and seize journalistic material”. To document what was happening, the newspaper broadcast live images of the operation on its Facebook profile. The agents went to the home of editor-in-chief Ryan Law and four other employees and associates of the newspaper, and arrested them. The police did not mention names, but confirmed that 5 people were arrested on charges of “collusion with a foreign country or with external elements to endanger national security”.
This is the second raid suffered by the Apple Daily editorial team: last August, 10 people were arrested in a similar operation, including Jimmy Lai and his children. At the same time, 18 million Hong Kong dollars (about 1 million and 700 thousand euros) were frozen in the possession of three companies linked to Apple Daily. In a press release, the police said that since 2019 the newspaper has published more than 30 articles asking foreign countries to impose sanctions on the Hong Kong administration and the Chinese government.
The operation was branded by many as a serious repression of press freedom in Hong Kong: it is the first time that journalists have been arrested on suspicion of violating the national security law. “With this latest blatant attack on one of its most vocal media critics, the Hong Kong authorities are stepping up their repression of press freedom and using the pretext of national security to justify it,” says the Asia-Pacific regional director. by Amnesty International Yamini Mishra. “The use of the content of Apple Daily articles as grounds for arrest could have profound implications for all media operating in Hong Kong – adds the Amnesty exponent, underlining that international human rights standards provide that national security can be invoked only to justify the restriction of rights and freedoms when there are specific, authentic, demonstrable, imminent and clear threats of violence or use of force ”.
Hong Kong authorities responded by announcing that they have come into possession of evidence confirming that the 30 indicted articles played a “crucial part” in what they called a conspiracy with foreign countries to impose sanctions against China and Hong Kong. In particular, the head of security, John Lee, said that the police will investigate the arrested and other people to determine if they helped instigate or finance the crimes. Then the warning: anyone who works with the “guilty will pay a high price”. “Distance yourself from them, otherwise all you have left will be regrets,” added Lee. More than 100 people have been arrested since the National Security Act came into effect.