A mass crowd of about 200 police officers swept through the newsroom of Apple Daily, a Hong Kong media known for its critical coverage of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and Hong Kong government. The owner of Apple Daily is media mogul Jimmy Lai, an outspoken pro-democracy activist in Hong Kong. The raid immediately followed his arrest on Monday morning.
Can you imagine the newsrooms of @nytimes or @guardian encounter something like this? After HK police arrested @JimmyLaiApple, hundreds of police were sent to Apple Daily office without the search warrant. pic.twitter.com/mia12rSYyP
— Joshua Wong 黃之鋒 😷 (@joshuawongcf) August 10, 2020
Apple Daily live streamed a mass squadron of police officers marching into Apple Daily’s headquarters in southeastern Hong Kong. The livestream showed police sifting through files on desks, lining up staff for identification, and searching through the newsroom.
Apple’s live video also revealed a handcuffed Jimmy Lai being walked through the office by police officers after being arrested at his home. He was charged on suspicion of collusion with a foreign country or external elements to endanger China’s national security, according to a statement released by the Hong Kong Police force.
At least 18 Police vans were counted at the entrance of Apple Daily’s headquarters during the raid in photos by RTHK, Hong Kong’s public broadcaster.
“The Police entered and searched a building in Tseung Kwan O in accordance with a warrant issued by a magistrate to gather evidence for offenses related to national security,” a police statement announced on Facebook.
It remains unclear what exact actions prompted the police to raid Apple Daily’s newsroom or charge its owner for collusion with external forces.
Police Action Threatens Hong Kong’s Free Press
Reports have also surfaced of Hong Kong’s police blocking media outlets from reporting from the scene of the raid.
In a video captured by local broadcaster RTHK, a police representative explained that they only permit reporter from media that “haven’t hindered police operations in the past” to enter the premises.
The barred media included Reuters, AFP, Associated Press (AP), NowTV, Initium Media, Stand News, and inmediahk, according to reports by the journalists from respective media organizations.
During this time, Li Kwai-wah, the senior superintendent of the National Security Department briefed the media on Lai’s arrest and the raid of Apple Daily’s offices. Barred media were unable to directly report his comments. Some reporters who were allowed to stream his press conference were barred from asking any questions.
In his statement, Li said that the police would refrain from searching news-related materials in Apple Daily’s headquarters. But his statement was at odds with Apple Daily’s livestream, in which police officers were seen searching the desks of reporters in the newsroom.
The police have not yet responded to The Epoch Times’ request for comment.
Monday’s events have raised widespread concern about the state of press freedom in Hong Kong.
Hong Kong Journalists Association Chair Chris Yeung said the police search was “horrendous” in a statement at the scene of the raid, calling on the city’s journalists to prepare for the worst.
“I think somewhere in third-world countries, we might expect such suppression of press freedom. I just didn’t expect it to be in Hong Kong,” he said.
When asked about Lai’s arrest, Taiwan’s Premier Su Tseng-chang told reporters, “China should not treat Hong Kong this way. We still urge the Chinese government to keep its promise and respect Hong Kong’s democracy and freedom.”
The raid and Lai’s arrest follow months of international concern after the CCP enacted sweeping national security laws for the former British colony. Critics worry that the laws give way for the CCP to crackdown on Hongkongers’ freedoms after a year of tumultuous protests borne out of anger at the government.
On July 30, the government disqualified more than a dozen pro-democracy candidates from running in election. A day later, the city’s chief executive Carrie Lam postponed the upcoming legislative elections for a year, citing COVID-19 concerns.
U.S. Secretary of State Pompeo declared that the United States “will not stand idly by while China swallows Hong Kong.”
On Sunday, the United States joined Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom in a joint statement condemning the Hong Kong government’s handling of its local elections. The statement called on Hong Kong to reinstate disqualified candidates and hold the elections as soon as possible to Sept. 6.
“We express deep concern at Beijing’s imposition of the new national security law, which is eroding the Hong Kong people’s fundamental rights and liberties,” the statement read.
This article has been updated with the latest information.