Police have arrested Wilson Li, a freelance journalist with Britain’s ITN and an ex-member of the now-disbanded student group Scholarism, according to TVB.
The broadcaster said that he was detained in connection with the NGO Fight for Freedom, Stand with Hong Kong along with activist Andy Li. They both stand accused of collusion with forces under the controversial national security law.
The UK-based lobbying group assisted with the recently-published UK All-Party Parliamentary Group report into Hong Kong police brutality allegations.
Wilson Li’s LinkedIn profile suggests he has been working with ITV News – which is produced by ITN – for a year. Whilst Andy Li penned an HKFP op-ed last December as the Chairman of the Independent Election Observation Mission to Hong Kong.
An ITV News spokesperson said: “We can confirm that Wilson Li works for ITV News in a freelance capacity. We are concerned to hear of his arrest and are urgently seeking clarification of the circumstances.”
The arrests come after Jimmy Lai, the founder of pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily, was arrested at his home in the early hours along with seven other executives and relatives. The newspaper’s offices were then raided by over 100 police officers.
In June, Beijing enacted laws to prevent, stop and punish behaviour in Hong Kong that it deemed a threat to national security. The legislation was inserted into the city’s mini-constitution – bypassing the local legislature – following a year of pro-democracy protests and unrest. It criminalised subversion, secession, foreign interference and inference with transportation and other infrastructure. The move – which gave police sweeping new powers – alarmed democrats, civil society groups and trade partners, as such laws have been used broadly to silence and punish dissidents in China.
In all, police said nine people between the ages of 23 and 72 were arrested under the security law on Monday.
‘A dark new phase’
The Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Hong Kong said in a statement that Monday’s arrest of Lai and the Apple Daily office raid “signal a dark new phase in the erosion of the city’s global reputation,” and came despite assurances the law would only target a minority of people.
The statement said that, during the newsroom raid, “uniformed police entered and set up cordons with orange tape, questioned journalists and took down their identifying information, and were seen rifling through notes and papers on reporters’ desks.”
The press club also condemned police for turning away several media outlets from the scene of the raid, choosing only a handful to remain: “Hong Kong has no system of press accreditation, which has been one of the hallmarks of its role as a bastion of press freedom in Asia. In the absence of an accreditation system, it seems some police officers are substituting their judgment as to which media outlets they consider ‘friendly’ and allowed to cover important briefings, and which media they can block,” they added.
Paris-based watchdog Reporters Without Borders also voiced concern: “By charging Apple Daily’s founder with ‘colluding with foreign forces’, the Hong Kong government clearly seeks to take down a symbolic figure of press freedom”, says Secretary General Christophe Deloire, urging the authorities to drop all charges immediately.
Update: Li says he was released on Tuesday on HK$20K bail and HK$180K surety. Police retained his passport, phones, computers and bank cards, he said on Twitter.
More to follow – refresh to update.