Western governments and lawmakers condemned a Hong Kong police raid on the pro-democracy tabloid Apple Daily on June 17, saying it showed Beijing was using a draconian national security law to suppress dissent and silence free press in the city.
Five hundred Hong Kong police officers sifted through reporters’ computers and notebooks at the daily. They also arrested five executives at the outlet, including its editor-in-chief, on charges of collusion with foreign forces to endanger national security under the controversial law.
A Hong Kong police official said the collusion charge was in relation to over 30 articles published by the outlet since 2019 that sought to have foreign countries impose sanctions on China or Hong Kong. This marks the first time that authorities have cited media articles as potentially violating the national security law.
Hong Kong’s Security Secretary John Lee accused the executives of using journalism as a “tool to endanger” national security, while cautioning “normal journalists” to keep their distance from the “criminals” at the paper.
The raid and arrests are the latest in a long line of clampdowns targeting dissenting voices since the national security law took effect last July. The city’s once-thriving pro-democracy camp has been decimated as dozens of lawmakers, protesters, and media figures have been arrested or sentenced under the law or similar offenses.
The raid “further demonstrates how the national security law is being used to stifle media freedom and freedom of expression in Hong Kong,” EU spokesperson Nabila Massrali said in a statement.
“It is essential that all the existing rights and freedoms of Hong Kong residents are fully protected, including freedom of the press and of publication.”
Britain’s Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab echoed this position, saying the raid was aimed at silencing dissent.
“Freedom of the press is one of the rights China promised to protect in the Joint Declaration and should be respected,” Raab said on Twitter, referring to an accord guaranteeing autonomy for Hong Kong when London handed over its colony to China in 1997.
British Parliamentarian David Alton, in a statement, described the move as “brazen and shameful thuggery—the actions of cowards who fear the printed word and the glare of media scrutiny.”
U.S. Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), in a tweet, called on President Joe Biden and democracies to condemn “this disgusting attack on the free press” and hold the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) accountable. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), meanwhile, called for the release of the arrested executives, as well the release of Jimmy Lai, the founder of the outlet, who is currently in prison awaiting trial in a separate national security trial.
The White House and State Department did not immediately respond to request for comment by The Epoch Times.
Earlier this week the world’s richest democracies scolded the Chinese regime over its rights abuses in Hong Kong at the Group of Seven summit, while NATO designated Beijing’s behavior as a “systemic challenge” to the international order.
In response to Beijing’s suppression in Hong Kong, the United States has leveled sanctions on more than 20 CCP and Hong Kong officials.
Reuters contributed to this report.