Police officers visited the newsrooms of pro-democracy news outlets Apple Daily, InMedia and StandNews on Wednesday with search warrants demanding documents relating to candidates who ran in last July’s democratic primary elections.

No members of staff were arrested and the newsrooms were not raided. The warrants prohibit the disclosure of the information requested by the police, according to StandNews. Both StandNews and Apple Daily had hosted election forums for candidates in the lead-up to July’s primaries.

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Four plain clothes police officers handed over a paper to the Stand News’ office, requesting for a document related to a security law case. Photo: Stand News Facebook screenshot.

The visits followed the arrest of at least 52 people on Wednesday morning in relation to the democratic legislative primaries last July. They stand accused of alleged subversion under the security law. Those arrested include prominent pro-democracy activists, former opposition lawmakers, social workers, academics, and the pollster who helped carry out the city-wide polls.

Separately, officers also entered the law firm of former pro-democracy lawmaker Albert Ho and John Clancy, the treasurer of democracy group Power for Democracy who helped organise the primaries.

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A polling station in Tin Shui Estate. Photo: Stand News.

Over 600,000 Hongkongers voted in the polls shortly after the passing of the security law last summer. The primaries aimed to secure a majority for the democratic party in the city’s partially-elected Legislative Council. Voter data was destroyed after the polls.

‘Intimidation attempt’

Press freedom watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemned the search warrants and visits, calling the police action “an apparent intimidation attempt.”

“RSF denounces the increasing Hong Kong government harassment on independent media outlets Stand News, InMedia and Apple Daily and urges it to restore full press freedom in the territory,” RSF East Asia Bureau Head Cédric Alviani said on Wednesday.

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In June 2020, Beijing inserted national security legislation directly into city’s mini-constitution – bypassing the local legislature – following a year of pro-democracy protests and unrest. It criminalised subversion, secession, foreign interference and terrorist acts, which were broadly defined to include disruption to public transport and other infrastructure. The move gave police sweeping new powers, alarming democrats, civil society groups and trade partners, as such laws have been used broadly to silence and punish dissidents in China.

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Hong Kong Free Press is a new, non-profit, English-language news source seeking to unite critical voices on local and national affairs. Free of charge and completely independent, HKFP arrives amid rising concerns over declining press freedom in Hong Kong and during an important time in the city’s constitutional development.