Apple Daily said Thursday that the company’s CEO Cheung Kim Hung, COO Chow Tat Kuen, chief editor Ryan Law, along with the deputy chief editor and online editor were all arrested and accused of colluding with foreign forces to endanger national security, a provision of the sweeping legislation introduced last year that banned sedition, secession and subversion against Beijing.
More than 100 police officers came to the Apple Daily headquarters, according to the newspaper. The publication broadcast a live feed on its Facebook page showing police asking staff members to show proof of identity, and blocking them from returning to their desks.
The Hong Kong government confirmed Thursday that “five directors of a company” were arrested on suspicion of violating the national security law, though they did not name the publication. The directors have been detained for investigation, according to a government statement.
In a second statement, police confirmed that national security officers had obtained a warrant to search a media company which gave officers “the power of searching and seizure of journalistic materials.”
Media mogul Lai — who for decades has been a symbol of the city’s tensions with mainland China — already faces charges under the national security law and is currently serving jail sentences for his role in unauthorized assemblies dating from the 2019 pro-democracy protests.
Carrie Lam, the city’s leader, said after the passage of the Beijing-imposed national security law that Hong Kong people should still be able to enjoy freedom of speech and press. The government has also told CNN Business in the past that it is “firmly committed to protecting and respecting the freedom of the press.”
A recent ranking of worldwide press freedoms, meanwhile, indicates that the environment in Hong Kong has deteriorated. The international watchdog Reporters Without Borders — which qualifies such freedoms based on data on abuse and acts of violence against journalists along with a questionnaire to experts — ranked Hong Kong 80 out of 180 countries for press freedom, down from 18 out of 138 in 2002.
— Jenni Marsh and Julia Hollingsworth contributed to this report.