Newspaper Violently Raided As Government Cracks Down On Freedom Of Press

Hong Kong authorities continue to stamp out free thought wherever they can. On Thursday, Hong Kong police raided the Apple Daily newspaper, a media group which is identified as pro-Democracy, and arrested five of the organization’s executives and three of their top editors. Authorities also froze the publication’s assets on grounds that the paper broke the city’s national security laws.

The raid indicates the high level of determination which the police possess to keep media outlets who oppose the Chinese regime suppressed, stamping out Hong Kong’s democracy initiative. The property seizure and arrests violate Hong Kong’s ‘Basic Law,’ a version of a constitution that supposedly protects freedom of the press.

The police used a warrant as justification for the surprise raid, citing authority to confiscate “journalistic materials,” as part of the city’s security law. The decision was made to issue employee arrests and a raid after it was discovered that Apple Daily articles were kept in the company database that included materials which called on Western powers to impose sanctions against the Chinese government as well as Hong Kong political figures.

Senior Police Superintendent, Li Kwai-wah, said that they had “strong evidence” that suggested the existence of “questionable articles” which could be used as “ammunition for foreign countries” against Hong Kong officials and the Chinese government.

Hong Kong police arrested five executives of the newspaper at their own residencies, and searched their properties on charges of “collusion with a foreign country.” This is the second raid against the Apple Daily since the passage of the national security law. The law itself constitutes collusion with foreign country’s as one of four named crimes that can earn an individual a maximum lifetime sentence in prison. Other of the law’s provisions include the ability of the state to undermine journalism and freedom of reporting, even when the information is considered valuable to the public.

Hong Kong’s secretary of security, John Lee, also accused the newspaper’s executives of conspiring with other nations against the government. He said that the paper was not just conducting “media or journalistic work,” but running “a conspiracy” that uses the ruse of journalism to protect itself while they collude with “foreign countr[ies] or external elements.”

Officers attempted to sequester and obscure employees from the raid itself, relocating them to a separate spot outside of the newsroom. Employees were unaware at the time what was taking place inside.

The Apple Daily issued a letter to its readers describing their reaction as “speechless” in the face of anti-freedom developments in a now “unfamiliar” Hong Kong.

Author: Elaine Cohen