Editors and executives of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily have been arrested and their assets frozen by Chinese authorities after being accused of violating its new national security law, marking the first time the draconian legislation has been used against the free press in the former British colony.
At approximately 7:30 a.m. on Thursday morning, roughly 100 national security police cordoned off the area around Apple Daily offices in Hong Kong, according to The Epoch Times, another newspaper with offices in Hong Kong that has been highly critical of the Chinese regime. The Associated Press, meanwhile, estimated the number of this “apparent show of force” at over 200 officers.
Authorities would only say that they’d arrested five men and one woman, while Apple Daily says that their editor-in-chief Ryan Law, chief executive officer Cheung Kim-hung, Chief Operating Officer Chow Tat-kuen, Deputy Chief Editor Chan Puiman, and Chief Executive Editor Cheung Chi-wai were arrested. The paper’s founder Jimmy Lai was arrested earlier this year and is currently serving a 20-month prison sentence for his involvement in the 2019 Hong Kong protest movement.
The Apple Daily directors stand accused of colluding with foreign powers, and authorities say that they published articles which played a “crucial part” in a so-called conspiracy to work with foreign nations to impose sanctions against China and Hong Kong, according to a statement from the National Security Department of the Hong Kong Police.
“Today’s Hong Kong feels unfamiliar and leaves us speechless. It feels as though we are powerless to stop the regime from exercising its power as it pleases,” the newspaper wrote in a letter to its readers. “Nevertheless, the staff of Apple Daily is standing firm. We will continue to persist as Hongkongers and live up to the expectations so that we have no regrets to our readers and the times we are in.”
John Lee, Hong Kong’s security minister, said in a press conference that police are investigating to establish that the editors and executives were arrested due to journalistic work used “as a tool to endanger national security,” rather than “normal journalistic work.”
He also warned that anyone working with the “perpetrators” should “distance” themselves from them, “otherwise all you will be left with are regrets.”
We are watching the last semblances of liberty dissolve before our eyes in Hong Kong — and it is certainly not as though its vocal, unyielding pro-democracy movement hasn’t been wildly warning the global community that this is exactly what would happen.
What’s all the more chilling is that many have been issuing the same warnings about continued attacks on free speech here in the U.S., where conservatism, patriotism, and non-compliant political speech are increasingly branded as “extremist,” “white supremacist,” or “domestic terrorism.”
Liberty is liberty, whether it is the liberty to criticize one’s own government or to profess one’s deeply held beliefs, no matter how offensive.
We absolutely must stand with the journalists and activists of Hong Kong, and we must not ignore this grievous assault on natural rights. Use your liberty to speak out while you’ve still got it — or soon enough, it just might be too late.