Two newspaper officials are accused of colluding with foreign powers, which raised alarm about media freedoms at the financial center.
Crowds gathered in front of a Hong Kong court in the early hours of Saturday as two executives of the pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily faced a charge under the barrier of the city’s national security law, in one case which has provoked international condemnation.
Editor-in-Chief Ryan Law, 47, and chief executive Cheung Kim-hung, 59, were one of five Apple Daily executives arrested Thursday when 500 police officers stormed the dam’s newsroom, which authorities described as a “crime scene.”
The two arrived in a police van before their hearing.
Both are accused of colluding with foreign powers, which raised alarm over media freedoms at the financial center as authorities step up repression under the controversial legislation.
The other three, chief operating officer Chow Tat-kuen, deputy chief executive Chan Puiman and chief executive Cheung Chi-wai, were released on bail late Friday, according to Apple Daily.
“I already left Apple Daily for personal security reasons,” said Chan, 37, a former Apple Daily reporter.
“I hope the two defendants can think of themselves first. They also have their families. I used to work with them. We are like friends ”.
“Don’t be afraid, fight”
The national security law imposed by Beijing in 2020 on the former British colony has given an authoritarian tone to most aspects of life in Hong Kong, including education and the arts.
It punishes what Beijing generally refers to as secession, subversion, terrorism, and collusion with foreign forces in prison for life.
Police said dozens of newspaper articles were suspected of violating national security law – the first time articles have been cited in the media as possible breaches of legislation.
On Saturday morning, crowds gathered in front of West Kowloon magistrates’ courts, some wearing yellow umbrellas or wearing Apple Daily T-shirts saying, “Don’t be afraid, keep going.”
Associate editor Chan Pui-man, arrested on the same charge, as the first audience in line to hear the court. pic.twitter.com/TEpIXU074r
– Galileo Cheng (@galileocheng) June 19, 2021
“Right now, you can be charged for NSL for a word or speech they don’t like. It’s a big setback, “said Lo, 29, a reader of the popular 26-year-old document.
The arrests and scale of the Apple Daily raid have been criticized by Western nations, global rights groups, press associations and the UN’s chief human rights spokesman.
Apple Daily and its listed publisher Next Digital have been under increasing pressure from its owner, pro-democracy activist and firm Beijing critic Jimmy Lai, was arrested last year under the law.
Lai, whose assets have been frozen under the security law, is already in jail for having participated in unauthorized assemblies and awaiting trial in his national security case.
As investigations into Apple Daily and its top executives escalate, some employees and observers have expressed deep concern about the newspaper’s future.
Since the law was imposed by Beijing in June last year, more than 100 people have been arrested, with most denied bail.