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Two Apple Daily Executives Charged With Collusion With A Foreign Country

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HONG KONG – Hong Kong police on Friday accused the editor-in-chief and chief executive of the pro-democracy tabloid Apple Daily of collusion with a foreign country, a national security case that has sent shivers down the city’s media.

On Thursday, 500 police officers raided the news outlet and officers were seen sitting in front of computers in the newsroom after the arrest of five Apple Daily executives at dawn on suspicion that dozens of their articles violated the new Apple security law. Hong Kong.

Police said they charged two of the five on Friday, identified by Apple Daily as Editor-in-Chief Ryan Law and Chief Executive Officer Cheung Kim-hung. The other three, COO Chow Tat-kuen, Deputy Editor-in-Chief Chan Puiman and Executive Editor-in-Chief Cheung Chi-wai, remain under investigation.

Police also said they would prosecute three companies related to Apple Daily for the same crime after freezing HK $ 18 million ($ 2.32 million) of their assets.

The arrests have further raised the alarm about media freedom in Hong Kong and have been criticized by Western governments and international rights groups and press associations.

The national security law imposed by Beijing in 2020 on the former British colony has dropped an authoritarian shudder over most aspects of life in Hong Kong, including education and the arts.

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Democracy supporters flocked to buy copies of Apple Daily on Friday to protest the raid.

The popular 26-year-old newspaper, which combines liberal discourse with celebrity gossip and investigations by those in power, increased its Friday press circulation to 500,000 copies, up from 80,000 the day before.

‘HANG THERE’

In Mong Kok district, queues formed at some kiosks at midnight, and some customers transported hundreds of first editions in trolleys and suitcases.

“You never know when this newspaper will die,” said a reader surnamed Tsang, who only gave his surname because of the delicacy of the matter. “As Hong Kong people, we must preserve history. Hold on as long as we can. Although the road is bumpy, we still have to travel it, as there is no other way. “

By morning, some kiosks in central Hong Kong had already sold out. One featured an image of the Apple logo with the words “Support Press Freedom” underneath.

Tam, a 40-year-old banker, said he bought his first newspaper in 20 years after learning of the raid.

“I do not intend to do anything with the newspaper in hand. It’s just because of my conscience, ”he said.

It was the second time police raided the newsroom after the arrest last year of media mogul Jimmy Lai, a pro-democracy activist and staunch critic of Beijing who owns Next Digital, which publishes Apple Daily.

The newspaper published a similar number after Lai’s arrest in August 2020. Since then, Lai’s assets have been frozen as he faces three charges under the security law. He is serving prison terms for participating in illegal assemblies.

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It was the first case in which authorities have cited media articles as potentially violating the security law, imposed after nearly a year of massive pro-democracy protests.

Hong Kong officials have repeatedly said that freedom of the press and other rights will remain intact, but that national security is a red line.

China’s Foreign Affairs Commissioner’s Office said in a statement that the national security law protects press freedom, while warning “external forces” to “keep their hands off Hong Kong.”

On Thursday night in the Apple Daily newsroom, Ng, a photojournalist who gave only his last name, said the raid was “really a pathetic moment for Hong Kong.”

“If we cannot survive, there will be no more freedom of the press,” Ng said while working. (Reporting by Jessie Pang, Sara Cheng, Sharon Abratique, Twinnie Siu, Joyce Zhou, and Donny Kwok; written by Marius Zaharia. Edited by Gerry Doyle and Raju Gopalakrishnan)

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