Hong Kong police detained five executives of the newspaper last week
Independent media watchdog the Committee to Protect Journalists has demanded immediate release of journalist Yeung Ching-kee and allowing all members of the press to work freely.
Officers from the Hong Kong Police Force’s National Security Department arrested Yeung, the lead editorial writer for the pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily, on Wednesday morning on suspicion of “conspiring to collude with foreign countries or foreign forces,” a crime under the national security law.
Yueng, who writes under the pen name Li Ping, was arrested from his home in the city’s Tseung Kwan O district. Convictions under the National Security Law can carry lifetime prison sentences, according to reports.
Next Digital Limited, which owns the Apple Daily, the same day announced that the newspaper will cease publication and shut down as from Thursday, as CPJ documented.
Last week, police raided the newspaper’s office and detained five of its executives, also for allegedly colluding with foreign powers.
“The arrest of Apple Daily opinion writer Yeung Ching-kee indicates that journalists in Hong Kong face the same potential fate as their colleagues on the mainland: jail time for critical reporting or opinion writing,” said Steven Butler, CPJ’s Asia program coordinator, in Washington.
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“Yeung should be released unconditionally at once, and China should respect the commitments it has made to allow freedom of the press in Hong Kong,” Butler said in a statement.
Yeung has written more than a thousand columns for the newspaper, many of which are critical of Beijing’s crackdown on the city’s pro-democracy movement and press freedom, according to Apple Daily’s database.
On Wednesday, he published a column in the paper’s print edition asking Hong Kong’s intellectuals, media workers, politicians, and businesses to not cater to authoritarian powers.
CPJ emailed the Hong Kong police for comment, but did not immediately receive any reply.
Next Digital and Apple Daily founder Jimmy Lai is currently in prison and on trial for alleged violations of the national security law, as CPJ has documented. In a separate case, Lai was sentenced on April 16 to 14 months in prison for allegedly organizing and participating in illegal demonstrations in 2019.
On June 21, the CPJ board announced that it will honor Lai with its 2021 Gwen Ifill Press Freedom Award.
On December 1, 2020, CPJ found that at least 47 journalists were imprisoned in China, making it the worst jailer of journalists worldwide for the second year in a row.