HONG KONG – A Hong Kong court ordered the detention without bail on Saturday of the chief editor of pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily and the chief of its parent company in the first hearing since their arrest two days ago under the city’s national security law.
Ryan Law, the editor, and Cheung Kim-hung, the CEO of Next Digital, have been charged with colluding with a foreign country to endanger national security in a case widely seen as an attack on press freedom in the semi-autonomous Chinese territory.
Chief Magistrate Victor So said there were insufficient grounds to believe that they would no longer violate the security law and ordered their detention at Lai Chi Kok Detention Center. He has set the next hearing for August 13.
Law and Cheung arrived in court in an unmarked white van with covered windows. A handful of activists held up a banner and copies of the Apple Daily outside before the hearing began.
Three other people also arrested Thursday – two editors of Apple Daily and another executive – have not yet been charged and were released on bail Friday evening pending further investigation.
One of them, associate editor Chan Pui-man, said after attending the bail hearing, “I think all media workers in Hong Kong are worried. But for now, for us, tomorrow, we will always take out our journal, and we will do our best to continue our work.
The Apple Daily has long been one of Hong Kong’s most vocal civil liberties advocates. He supported massive protests demanding more democracy in 2019 and criticized the crackdown that followed, including the enactment of a national security law last year.
Beijing’s central government defended legislation and repression against opposition voices as necessary to restore order and stability. The 2019 protests that challenged the Beijing regime often began as peaceful marches during the day, but turned into violent clashes between hard-core protesters and police at night.
Apple Daily founder Jimmy Lai is currently serving 20 months in jail after being convicted of playing a role in unauthorized rallies – rallies and marches that did not receive approval police – during the 2019 protests. He was also charged under the National Security Act.
The latest arrests mark the first time that journalists have been targeted under the new law, except for a freelance writer who was arrested for pro-democracy activities. Hundreds of police and security guards who raided Apple Daily’s offices on Thursday also seized 44 hard drives and authorities froze $ 2.3 million of its assets.
Police said the arrests were based on more than 30 articles in the Apple Daily since 2019 that called for international sanctions against China and Hong Kong.
The security law specifically criminalizes collusion with a foreign country, institution, organization or individual to impose sanctions or a blockade against Hong Kong or China. Critics say Beijing is reneging on its promise when Hong Kong handed over to Britain in 1997 that the city could retain freedoms not seen elsewhere in China for 50 years.
The United States has imposed sanctions on Chinese and Hong Kong officials for the crackdown and called for the immediate release of the editors and executives of Apple Daily.
Asked how journalists should avoid getting into trouble, Hong Kong Security Secretary John Lee said at a press conference this week that “the answer is simple: do your job as a reporter. as freely as you intend to break Hong Kong law and certainly not Hong Kong National Security Law.