Two senior executives from the pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily have been formally charged with what the Hong Kong police have described as a “conspiracy to endanger national security.”
In a statement released on Friday, the police said that two men – aged 47 and 59 – had been charged with colluding with foreign forces to endanger national security. According to local media reports, the two were Next Digital CEO, Cheung Kim-hung, and Apple Daily Editor-in-Chief, Ryan Law.
The two men are expected to appear before West Kowloon Magistrates’ Courts on Saturday morning.
Cheung and Law were among five top directors of Apple Daily who were arrested on Thursday on suspicion of breaching the Beijing-imposed security law. The other arrestees included Next Digital Chief Operating Officer, Royston Chow, Apple Daily Associate Publisher, Chan Pui-man and Nick Cheung, who manages the newspaper’s online news platform.
Police said the three who have not been charged were still detained pending further investigation. The charge of alleged foreign collusion against the two men are also linked to three companies connected to the newspaper – Apple Daily Limited, Apple Daily Printing Limited and AD Internet Limited – whose assets, amounting to HK$18 million, have been frozen by the authorities. The companies are required to send representatives to attend Saturday’s hearing.
On Thursday, police deployed around 500 officers to carry out the national security arrests and raid the headquarters of Apple Daily in Tseung Kwan O. According to Apple Daily, police took away at least 44 computers and hard disks containing journalistic materials, after they obtained a warrant that granted them power to seize information used in newsgathering.
The five senior directors of the daily tabloid-style newspaper stand accused of publishing a series of Chinese and English articles that called on foreign powers to impose sanctions on China and Hong Kong. Police have refused to state clearly the nature of these articles.
The arrests and raid have been criticised by Western countries, who described the move as an attempt by Beijing to silent dissenting views in the city. Some critics also slammed the authorities as “selectively using” the security law to “suppress independent media.”
It was the second time in 10 months for the news outlet to face a police search. Last August, Hong Kong police detained Apple Daily’s founder, the media tycoon Jimmy Lai, over the same allegation of foreign collusion. Lai is set to stand trial for the national security charges in the city’s High Court, where the maximum penalty is life imprisonment.