Hong Kong sends 500 officers in pro-democracy paper raid

Apple Daily says it has been left'speechless by the government's warning for people to cut ties with the newspaper. Image Shutterstock

Hong Kong's national security police arrested five executives at the pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily on Thursday morning and raided its offices for the second time in a year as pressure on the city's media freedom intensifies.

Apple Daily said Thursday that the company's CEO Cheung Kim Hung, COO Chow Tat Kuen and chief editor Ryan Law, along with the deputy chief editor and online editor were all arrested and accused of colluding with foreign forces to endanger national security - a provision of the sweeping legislation introduced a year ago that banned sedition, secession and subversion against Beijing.

"The charges of "collusion with a foreign country or with external elements to endanger national security" appear to be entirely politically motivated". Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), meanwhile, called for the release of the arrested executives, as well the release of Jimmy Lai, the founder of the outlet, who is now in prison awaiting trial in a separate national security trial.

He said that the court warrant that allowed police to search the offices of Apple Daily had undermined journalists' ability to protect their materials, a vital part of upholding press freedom. Authorities also arrested Chief Operating Officer Royston Chow and deputy editors Chan Pui-man and Cheung Chi-wai.

Dozens of prominent activists have been arrested since the national security law was introduced past year.

The U.S. and Japan also spoke out about the arrests.

Photos published online by Apple Daily showed police going through reporters' computers.

"The huge operation today has again sent out a chilling signal about the threat to press freedom and freedom of expression", Lau said.

Lee went on to say that "normal journalistic work takes place lawfully and freely in Hong Kong", adding that the suspects used journalism to "further their criminal activities".

Australia's Victoria state reports 2 local Covid-19 cases
However, the emergence of mystery cases like the man's continues to concern authorities because they can "linger and build". There have been 9 positive COVID-19 cases who have visited this shopping centre during the current outbreak.

Beijing has made no secret of its desire to see the paper's voice tamed, with state media routinely describing Lai as a "traitor" and a "black hand" and senior communist party officials declaring him guilty of national security crimes.

Jimmy Lai, the founding chairman of the paper, is serving a 20-month prison sentence after he was convicted in three cases for joining unauthorized assemblies in 2019.

Critics, including many Western nations, say it has been the final nail in the coffin for the "One Country, Two Systems" promise that Hong Kong could maintain certain liberties after its 1997 handover to China by the British.

Lai, 73, was among the first high-profile democracy activists arrested under the law. Last month, authorities froze Lai's assets and shares in Next Digital.

He admitted that the paper was in "crisis" since the jailing of its owner but said his reporters were determined to press on with publishing.

Police officers gather at the lobby of headquarters of Apple Daily in Hong Kong Thursday, June 17, 2021.

Earlier this week the world's richest democracies scolded the Chinese regime over its rights abuses in Hong Kong at the Group of Seven summit, while North Atlantic Treaty Organisation designated Beijing's behavior as a "systemic challenge" to the worldwide order.

Reuters reported that trading for the company's stock on the Hong Kong bourse was suspended on Thursday.

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