A Hong Kong court has rejected the latest application for bail from former chief editor of Apple Daily, as a national security case against the now-defunct newspaper was adjourned to next month.

Ryan Law Wai-kwong, former editor-in-chief of the pro-democracy newspaper which was shut down in late June, was ordered to remain in custody on Friday. The order came after Chief Magistrate Victor So refused to grant bail pending Law’s trial over foreign collusion charges.

West Kowloon Magistrates’ Courts. Photo: Kelly Ho/HKFP.

The former chief editor appeared in West Kowloon Magistrates’ Courts alongside Cheung Kim-hung, ex-CEO of Next Digital, the parent company of Apple Daily. The pair waved and nodded at people in the courtroom when they appeared in the dock, and Law was seen making an “okay” hand gesture.

The pair are accused of conspiring with the newspaper and media company founder Jimmy Lai to request foreign countries or external forces to impose sanctions on Hong Kong and China between July 2020 and April 3 this year.

Three Next Digital subsidiaries – Apple Daily Limited, Apple Daily Printing Limited, and AD Internet Limited – have also been charged.

Under the Beijing-imposed national security law, foreign collusion and the three other offences – secession, subversion and terrorist acts – are punishable by life imprisonment.

Politihk Social Strategic members stage a protest before a national security case hearing involving former senior executives of Apple Daily on August 13, 2021. Photo: Politihk Social Strategic Facebook screenshot.

Cheung did not apply for bail in front of So on Friday, but his counsel said the former CEO, who resigned from his role at Next Digital last month, will make a bail application at the city’s High Court later.

So adjourned the case to September 30 for mention.

‘Heavy sentences’

Before the hearing, some members from the pro-Beijing Politihk Social Strategic staged a brief protest outside the courthouse. The group’s chairman Innes Tang urged the court to impose a heavy sentence on the former senior executives of Apple Daily.

“[We] need to let the court know the public opinion… we want heavy sentences and we want the court to hear our voices,” Tang said.

He added the defendants should not think that they could use press freedom as a “protective shield” for their alleged crimes.

Apple Daily’s office in Tseung Kwan O. Photo: Kelly Ho/HKFP.

Standing at a distance from the Politihk members, four men held placards that featured a portrait of Apple Daily’s founder Jimmy Lai and called the media tycoon a “traitor.” They also put up a banner that read: “Jimmy Lai as the leader, Cheung Kim-hung and Law Wai-kwong collude with foreign forces. [They] seriously endangered national security, [they should be] sentenced severely and sent to jail.”

The shares of Next Digital have been suspended from trading since June 17, when police arrested five of its senior executives and raided its headquarters for the second time. The closure of the 26-year-old newspaper came shortly after the authorities froze HK$18 million worth of assets of the companies involved in the national security case.

The publisher announced on Monday that it would stop leasing its premises at the Tseung Kwan O Industrial Estate. The firm was also sued for more than HK$2 million by Johnson Controls Hong Kong on Monday, over alleged overdue payments for an air-cooling system it installed earlier this year.

Kelly Ho

Kelly Ho has an interest in local politics, education and sports. She formerly worked at South China Morning Post Young Post, where she specialised in reporting on issues related to Hong Kong youth. She has a bachelor's degree in Journalism from the University of Hong Kong, with a second major in Politics and Public Administration.