Responding to the arrest of five senior executives and the seizing of journalistic material during a police raid on Hong Kong media outlet Apple Daily this morning, Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific Regional Director Yamini Mishra said:
“With this latest brazen attack on one of its fiercest media critics, the Hong Kong authorities are ramping up their crackdown on press freedom and using the pretext of ‘national security’ to justify it.
“Use of the content of Apple Daily media articles as grounds for arrest under the national security law is deeply disturbing and could have profound implications for all media outlets operating in Hong Kong.
“International human rights standards clearly state that ‘national security’ can only be invoked to justify the restriction of rights and freedoms when there are specific, genuine, demonstrable, imminent and clear threats of violence or the use of force.
“It is farcical for the authorities to suggest that the critical media articles that apparently prompted today’s raid have met this threshold, while pretending to use international law as their justification. Once again, ‘national security’ is being used as a catch-all to silence critics in Hong Kong.
“The protection of journalistic materials is crucial to enabling the media to expose wrongdoing without fear of retribution. Authorities are essentially removing these protections, while putting confidential sources and informants at imminent risk. This is an attack not only on the freedom of expression of the press, but also on readers’ freedom to freely receive information.
“All the media workers arrested today solely for doing their legitimate journalistic work must be immediately released. Journalism is not a crime.”
In the early hours of 17 June, Hong Kong authorities arrested five company executives of Apple Daily, an outspoken media organization in Hong Kong.
According to a Hong Kong Police spokesperson, they were arrested for their role in the publication of more than 30 articles that called on foreign countries to impose sanctions.
All were charged with “colluding with a foreign country or with external elements to endanger national security” under Hong Kong’s National Security Law.
The media organization’s premises were also raided by 500 police officers who took away computers and documents, including some containing journalistic materials. Authorities highlighted Article 43 of the National Security Law, which gives police extensive powers to search premises, seize items and obtain information.
Steve Li Kwai-wah, the senior superintendent of the police national security department, cited the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), a core UN human rights treaty binding on Hong Kong, which he said allows for restrictions of “freedom of press and publication” on grounds of national security.
Those arrested today were Apple Daily CEO Cheung Kim-hung, COO Chow Tat-kuen Royston, Chief Editor Ryan Law, Associate Publisher Chan Pui-man and Platform Director of Apple Daily Digital, Cheung Chi-wai.
The newspaper’s founder, Jimmy Lai, was arrested and charged under the national security law in August 2020 on the same day as a previous police raid on Apple Daily’s offices.
Authorities have also frozen HK$18 million (US$2.32 million) of assets owned by companies linked to Apply Daily.
Since the enactment of the national security law in June 2020, at least 113 people have been arrested under the law.