Four former employees of the pro-democracy Apple Daily newspaper are scheduled to appear in a Hong Kong court on Thursday to face charges of colluding with foreign forces under a national security law that has heightened concerns about media freedoms.
The charges are the most recent in a national security investigation into
Jimmy Lai’s newspaper, which went bankrupt after several hundred cops raided its headquarters on June 17, freezing key assets and bank accounts.
Police, who typically do not name people under investigation, said they had charged four individuals, ages 51 to 57, including one who had been arrested on Wednesday.
Public broadcaster RTHK identified the four as staff of the former Apple Daily newspaper, including the former executive editor-in-chief, who was arrested on Wednesday. read more
The police force’s national security department said it was charging four people, whom it did not identify, “for the offence of conspiracy to collude with a foreign country or with external elements to endanger national security.”
Next Digital, the media company that publishes Apple Daily, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
After a police raid and several staff arrests, the popular tabloid of staunch Beijing critic Lai printed its final edition on June 24.
Police have said that dozens of articles in the paper may have violated the city’s China-imposed national security law, marking the first time authorities have targeted media reports under the legislation.
Critics of the law, which goes into effect in June 2020, claim it has been used to silence dissent and erode fundamental freedoms, including those of the media, in the former British colony, which returned to Chinese rule in 1997.
Authorities have denied any erosion of rights and freedoms in Hong Kong, including the media, but have stated that acts that endanger China’s national security have crossed a red line. According to security officials, law enforcement actions are based on evidence and have nothing to do with a person’s background or profession.