Hong Kong national security police have arrested a former editorial writer for Apple Daily at the airport as he was about to fly to Britain, local media reported, the seventh senior member of the now-defunct pro-democracy newspaper to be detained.
Local media said the 57-year-old arrested on Sunday was the former editorial writer and editor-in-chief of the English news section, Fung Wai-kong. Police confirmed with HKFP that a man had been detained for conspiring to collude with foreign forces but did not identify him.
HK01 reported that Fung was departing for a flight to the UK when he was seized.
Next Digital CEO Cheung Kim-hung, Chief Operating Officer Royston Chow, Apple Daily’s Editor-in-Chief Ryan Law, Associate Publisher Chan Pui-man and Cheung Chi-wai, who manages the newspaper’s online news platform, were arrested on June 17, the same day the paper’s headquarters were raided as part of an operation involving 500 police.
Another editorial writer, Yeung Ching-kei, was arrested on June 23.
Cheung Kim-hung and Law have been charged under the Beijing-imposed national security law with colluding with foreign forces and remanded in custody, while the others have been bailed.
Police say they raided the paper in connection with some 30 articles it published which allegedly called for sanctions to be imposed on Beijing or Hong Kong. They have declined to be more specific about the articles.
The founder of Apple Daily and of its parent company Next Digital, 73-year-old Jimmy Lai, was arrested last year and has been in custody since December awaiting trial on national security charges. He is currently also serving jail terms over involvement in peaceful, unauthorised protests in 2019.
Apple Daily published its last edition last Thursday, after its board decided to cease all operations in Hong Kong. Online news outlet Stand News separately on Sunday announced it was withdrawing some commentary pieces from its website and making other changes in response to the security law.
The Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA) accused the police of targeting journalists and urged the force to give an explanation.
“HKJA reiterates that freedom of speech and freedom of the press are both Hong Kong’s core values,” it said in a Facebook statement. “If [we] can’t tolerate a writer’s pen, it would be difficult to see Hong Kong as an international city again.”
“HKJA stresses that the chain of events in recent days has almost killed off Hong Kong’s press freedom.”
Security Bureau’s reported ultimatum
Local media also reported that the government’s Security Bureau told Apple Daily to hand over “sensitive material” including personal information on employees in exchange for the unfreezing of the assets of the newspaper.
Some HK$18 million worth of assets belonging to three companies linked to Apple Daily were frozen by the Security Bureau, along with the arrests and the office raid.
Citizen News and Headline Daily reported that some employees of Apple Daily received an email from the board saying that Next Digital had applied to the bureau to unfreeze some funds, but was asked to provide more data before any decision was made.
According to the reports, the management team was still discussing with lawyers whether to comply with the demand.
Correction 17:44: a previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Royston Chow was charged under the national security law. Ryan Law was charged with the national security law.