Hong Kong: End persecution of independent media under the National Security Law

Hong Kong: End persecution of independent media under the National Security Law - Media

Hong Kong police today raided the office of independent newspaper Apple Daily, arrested five senior executives including editor-in chief Ryan Law, and froze Apple Daily assets.

At around 7:30am local time, some 500 police arrived at the pro-democracy newspaper’s headquarters. Apple Daily is accused of violating Article 29 of the National Security Law (NSL) in relation to some 30 English and Chinese language articles published online and in print since 2019. Police say the articles are evidence of a foreign conspiracy to advocate for sanctions against China and Hong Kong. Police also warned readers against reposting the content online. The warrant, issued under the NSL, authorized police to ‘search and seize journalistic material’, including computers. Separately, police arrested five senior executives at their homes on suspicion of ‘collusion with a foreign country or with external elements to endanger national security’. Police also froze HKD 18 million (USD 2.3 million) in Apple Daily and subsidiary assets. Apple Daily founder, 73-year old Jimmy Lai, was also informed on Tuesday that he will stand trial in July for violating the NSL by colluding with foreign forces. If convicted, he faces up to life in prison. In April, Lai was sentenced to 14 months in prison for taking part in pro-democracy demonstrations in 2019.

Beijing imposed the National Security Law on the erstwhile self-governing territory on 30 June 2020, despite widespread opposition from Hong Kong civil society and international human rights experts. In September 2020, seven UN Human Rights Special Procedures issued a joint communication calling the NSL particularly troubling for the risks it posed to fundamental rights.

Michael Caster, ARTICLE 19’s Asia Digital Program Manager, said:

“We already know that China censors any mention of Hong Kong independence. Since the National Security Law was passed, we have seen an accelerating campaign to crush independent media and erase perspectives that diverge from the Party line in Beijing.”

“The morning raid of Apple Daily might be the harshest action yet taken against independent media in Hong Kong under the National Security Law. It is a sad reminder that all the dire warnings of encroaching repression from Beijing have been prescient.”

For more information

Michael Caster, Asia Digital Programme Manager, michaelcaster@article19.org.