Hong Kong pro-democracy media executives appear in court




Two leaders of the pro-democracy Hong Kong Apple Daily appeared in court on Saturday for collusion after authorities rolled out sweeping security laws to target the newspaper, a scathing critic of Beijing.

Editor-in-chief Ryan Law and CEO Cheung Kim-hung are accused of colluding with foreign forces to undermine China’s national security over a series of articles which police say call for international sanctions.

This is the first time that political opinions and opinions published by a Hong Kong outlet have triggered an investigation under the Security Act, imposed by Beijing last year to stamp out dissent in the financial hub.

Apple Daily and its jailed owner Jimmy Lai have long been thorns on Beijing’s side, with unwavering support for the city’s pro-democracy movement and harsh criticism from authoritarian Chinese leaders.

More than 500 police raided the newspaper’s newsroom on Thursday, taking computers, hard drives and journalists’ notebooks.

Five executives were also arrested. Law and Cheung were charged on Friday while the other three were released on bail pending further investigation.

Dozens of supporters lined up for court seats on Saturday morning, including many former and current Apple Daily employees.

A staff member, who gave her last name as Chang, said that she and many other Apple Daily employees treated “every day like the last” while working for the newspaper.

“At first, authorities said the national security law would only target a small number of people,” she told AFP.

“But what happened has shown us that it is nonsense,” she added.

Another reporter, who gave her first name as Theresa, said she viewed Apple Daily’s legal issues as a wake-up call.

“I think what happened to Apple Daily today could possibly happen to all the other media in town,” she said.

Several international media companies have regional headquarters in Hong Kong, attracted by the pro-business regulations and free speech provisions enshrined in the city’s mini-constitution.

But many are now wondering if they have a future there and are making contingency plans as Beijing continues a broad crackdown on dissent in the city.

Local media are going through an even more difficult time, with journalists’ associations claiming that journalists increasingly need to censor themselves.

Hong Kong has steadily fallen in the annual press freedom ranking compiled by Reporters Without Borders, from 18th place in 2002 to 80th this year.

Mainland China languishes 177th out of 180, ahead of Turkmenistan, North Korea and Eritrea.

yan-su / jta / jah



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