A Hong Kong court has denied bail to four former senior journalists of the now-defunct pro-democracy Apple Daily newspaper, who are accused of violating the Beijing-imposed national security law by conspiring to collude with external forces.
Associate publisher Chan Pui-man, 51, executive editor-in-chief Lam Man-chung, 51, editor-in-chief of the English news section Fung Wai-kong, 57, and editorial writer Yeung Ching-kee, 55, appeared at West Kowloon Magistrates’ Courts on Thursday morning.
They are accused of conspiring – together with three companies linked to Apple Daily, the paper’s founder Jimmy Lai, Next Digital former CEO Cheung Kim-hung and Apple Daily’s editor-in-chief Ryan Law – to ask foreign countries or external forces “to impose sanctions or blockade, or engage in other hostile activities” against Hong Kong or China.
Lai, Cheung and Law were already in custody.
Lam was arrested on Wednesday morning and had his house searched, while Chan, Fung, and Yeung were arrested last month and bailed. They had their bail revoked after Lam’s arrest.
As the four stepped into the courtroom, Lam waved to people in the public gallery while Chan and Fung nodded to those attending.
Under reporting restrictions, reports can only include the result of bail proceedings, the name of the person applying for bail and their representative and the offence concerned.
Chief Magistrate Victor So, one of the city’s designated national security judges, partially lifted restrictions, allowing media outlets to publish the bail conditions suggested by the defendants.
So eventually ruled against bail, saying there was not enough evidence that the four would not “commit further acts endangering national security.”
A total of seven former Apple Daily employees are now in custody awaiting trial under the security law, which provides for maximum penalties of life imprisonment.
Prosecutors said they still need to review 97 items, including over 40 computers, dozens of servers, and several mobile phones. There were also 25 boxes of documents pending investigation, they said .
Yeung offered cash bail of HK$100,000-150,000 and said he was willing to hand over all travel documents. He also agreed not to publish any articles or accept interviews and said he was willing to report to police on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
Chan also offered to report to police on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, submit all travel documents, offer cash bail of HK$200,000 and a surety of HK$100,000. The former associate publisher also offered to confine herself to her home from midnight to 7:00 a.m.
She said she would also reject any media interviews, and would not publish or share any speech that might violate the national security law, take any action that might endanger national security, or contact any foreign officials.
Fung offered not to use any social media platforms, publish any articles or messages to the public, join any media organisation, contact any foreign officials for political purposes, join in any political activity or give any media interviews.
He said he was willing to report to police every day, offer cash bail of HK$200,000 and a surety of HK$100,000 and obey a curfew.
Lam offered cash bail of HK$120,000 and two sureties of HK$100,000 each. He also agreed to not leave Hong Kong. All his travel documents were seized by police following his arrest.
The former executive editor-in-chief was willing to report to the police on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. Lam’s representative said he also agreed not to accept any interviews, publish any articles, contact foreign officials, or engage in any acts that might endanger national security.
The case has been adjourned to September 30. Chan, Fung, and Lam retained their right to review their bail status and will appear in court again on July 28.
Spectators shouted “Hang in there!” as the four left the courtroom. Family members hugged each other and wept outside the courtroom as other people comforted them.
Speaking outside the court after the hearing, the head of the Hong Kong Journalists Association Ronson Chan said that he felt “very sorry” about the court’s decision to deny bail.
“I also have to remind all the journalists in Hong Kong that we still have to safeguard the freedom of the press, and stand our pose firmly…” said Chan, who added that reporters must consider the risks related to their work.
Apple Daily arrests
Lam and Chan oversaw the printing of the last edition of Apple Daily last month. Its board decided to cease operations in Hong Kong after the arrest of five senior executives and a writer of the paper and the freezing of the financial assets of its parent companies.
Cheung and Law were arrested last month, charged under the security law and remanded in custody.
The newspaper’s headquarters in Tseung Kwan O were also raided last month as part of a police operation involving around 500 officers.
Apple Daily Limited, Apple Daily Printing Limited and AD Internet Limited were also charged under the sweeping legislation. The government froze assets worth HK$18 million linked to the three companies.
Lai himself was arrested under the national security law in August last year, and has been remanded in custody since December awaiting trial. The 73-year-old is currently serving prison sentences totalling 20 months for protest-related charges.