BEIJING — Hong Kong police have arrested five editorial executives, including the editor in chief, of media outlet Apple Daily, freezing more corporate accounts and imperiling the future of the region's most feisty, investigative paper.
Ryan Law, the chief editor, the CEO of the newspaper's publisher Cheung Kim-hung, the publisher's chief operating officer Chan Puiman, and two other editors were among those arrested. The Apple Daily live stream showed Law being led out of the paper's offices in handcuffs early Thursday morning.
"They're our top three editorial people, they've just stripped out our top three editorial people," said Mark Simon, a Taiwan-based executive with the paper's publisher Next Media.
Li Guihua, a senior officer with Hong Kong's special legal body set up to prosecute national security cases, said that the editors were arrested because of "dozens of articles in Apple Daily that called on foreign agencies to impose sanctions on China or the Hong Kong government."
Around 200 police officers were sent to Apple Daily's offices to search the premises and confiscate "journalistic materials," according to a national security police statement.
"There is huge frustration that Apple Daily won't stop," said Simon.
The five editors are among the more than 120 or so arrests under the national security law as Beijing tightens its control over Hong Kong. Ten of those arrests include Jimmy Lai and nine business associates, stemming from their activism. Lai, the founder and publisher of Apply Daily, is currently serving a prison term for separate charges related to organizing protests as part of a mass demonstration movement in 2019.
As a result, Lai's shares in Apply Daily's publishing company and his related corporate bank accounts had already been frozen. However, the paper's readers rallied after his arrest last year, buying more subscriptions and company stock, briefly sending its shares soaring at more than three times the usual price.
But Li, the national security officer, said Thursday the state had frozen the assets of three other companies affiliated with Apple Daily and that of its publisher. Trading of its stock shares has been suspended, leaving Apple Daily few financial resources to fall back on.
Simon, the Next Media executive, said the paper would continue to chug on with reporting and publishing with a skeleton staff.
"Every single time they've come up with a plan to kill us, we've managed to survive," says Simon. "This morning, our staff has told me until the lights go out, we keep publishing."
A previous headline on this story incorrectly referred to the media outlet Apple Daily as Daily Apple.
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Now onto Hong Kong, where police have arrested the editor-in-chief and four other top editors at one of the region's most outspoken newspapers. Police then raided the paper's offices and seized reporting materials. They did all this using a sweeping national security law. NPR's Emily Feng reports from Beijing.
EMILY FENG, BYLINE: Editor-in-Chief Ryan Law was led out of the Apple Daily offices in handcuffs. True to form, Apple Daily livestreamed the entire arrest.
FENG: Meanwhile, officers were also arresting his four deputies at their homes across Hong Kong. Three of them are top-level editors at the feisty investigative tabloid.
MARK SIMON: Chan Puiman and platform director of Apple Daily, they're our top three editorial people. They've just stripped out our top three editorial people.
FENG: This is Mark Simon, an executive with Next Media, the publisher that owns Apple Daily. He's outside of Hong Kong. And I called him as police were still searching the Apple Daily headquarters. The paper's billionaire publisher, Jimmy Lai, has already been imprisoned for organizing illegal protests. Lai and nine associates already face national security charges. And Lai's company bank accounts and company shares - all frozen. So why are police going one step further and arresting the paper's journalists?
SIMON: Because we're not shutting down. Look; there is huge frustration that Apple Daily won't stop.
FENG: They're among the 120 or so arrests under the national security law as Beijing tightens its control over Hong Kong. The crimes alleged today by Hong Kong's national security police were that the editors had commissioned articles that allegedly called for international sanctions on China in response to the very law they've been arrested under. This livestream showed the police searching the paper's offices today.
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UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: (Non-English language spoken).
UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: (Non-English language spoken).
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FENG: The arrests are just the latest blow to Apple Daily.
SIMON: They announced that they've seized everything. And we said, well, that's OK. We've got enough cash for 18 months. What, 18 months? We can't have you around for 18 months. In other words, every single time they've come up with a plan to kill us, we've managed to survive.
FENG: So police today said they'd frozen more corporate assets and frozen the company's stock shares. Simon says Apple Daily will keep running.
SIMON: This morning, our staff has told me until the lights go out, we keep publishing.
FENG: But they have fewer and fewer staff left.
Emily Feng, NPR News, Beijing.
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