Six ex-staff members of the now-defunct pro-democracy tabloid Apple Daily, and its parent company Next Digital, will see their national security law cases transferred to Hong Kong’s Hight Court, where the maximum penalty is life behind bars.

Former CEO of Next Digital Cheung Kim-hung, Apple Daily’s former editor-in-chief Ryan Law, former associate publisher Chan Pui-man, former executive editor-in-chief Lam Man-chung, ex-editor-in-chief of the English news section Fung Wai-kong, and ex-editorial writer Yeung Ching-kee appeared at West Kowloon Magistrates’ Courts on Thursday.

West Kowloon Law Courts Building
West Kowloon Law Courts Building. Photo: Candice Chau/HKFP.

Cheung and Law – along with Apple Daily Limited, Apple Daily Printing Limited, and AD Internet Limited – are accused of conspiring with the founder of Next Digital and Apple Daily, Jimmy Lai, to collude with foreign powers.

Chan, Lam, Fung, and Yeung were accused of conspiring with Cheung, Law, Lai, and the three companies to ask foreign countries or external forces “to impose sanctions or blockade, or engage in other hostile activities” against Hong Kong or China.

The prosecution applied to adjourn the case to October 12 as the return day, where the court is expected to handle committal proceedings for the case to be transferred to the Court of First Instance.

As the defendants stepped into the dock, people sitting in the public gallery stood up and waved at them. All defendants waved back, as Law and Lam displayed an “ok” hand gesture to the public gallery.

The court session was adjourned for at least 45 minutes for the prosecution to handle the the absence of any company representatives. As the defendants were excused from the court, people sitting in the public gallery, some former Apple Daily employees, stood up again and shouted “take care” and “hang in there.”

Lam Man-chung
Apple Daily’s then-executive editor-in-chief Lam Man-chung looking through the paper’s copy on June 17, 2021. File Photo: Candice Chau/HKFP.

The media group’s founder, Lai, will also appear in court on the same date, as the prosecution also applied for his case to be transferred to the High Court.

All defendants were remanded in custody as no bail applications were submitted.

No company representatives

The three companies did not send any representatives to attend the court session. Soon after proceedings began, Acting Chief Magistrate Peter Law asked the court if there was anyone representing the three companies. A court staffer was also invited to ask people sitting in the extension court.

apple daily's headquarter
Photo: Kenny Huang & Michael Ho/Studio Incendo.

After the prosecution spent close to an hour handling the situation, the prosecutor asked for the case of the three companies to also be adjourned to October 12 to allow the police and prosecution more time to “understand what happened.”

The government announced on Wednesday that Hong Kong finance chief Paul Chan had presented a petition to the Court of First Instance to wind up Next Digital, the parent company of Apple Daily.

All remaining board members of the parent company quit earlier this month, citing a “climate of fear” under the sweeping national security law.

The Beijing-imposed national security law criminalised subversion, secession, collusion with foreign forces and terrorist acts, which were broadly defined to include disruption to transport and other infrastructure.

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Candice is a reporter at Hong Kong Free Press. She previously worked as a researcher at a local think tank. She has a BSocSc in Politics and International Relations from the University of Manchester and a MSc in International Political Economy from London School of Economics.