HONG KONG, June 17 (Hfrance.fr) - Cinq cents Hong Kong police sifted through computers and notebooks of pro-democracy tabloid journalistsatie Apple Daily on Thursday, the first case in which authorities cited news articles as potentially violating national security law.
dawn, police arrested five newspaper executives, and officers were later seen sitting at computers in the newsroom after entering with a warrant to seize journalistic material, including journalists' phones and laptops.
The raid is the latest media blow to tabloid mogul Jimmy Lai, owner of the tabloid and avid Beijing critic, whose assets were frozen under the security law and who is serving prison terms for participating in illegal gatherings.
In comments further alarming media freedoms in Hong Kong, Security Secretary John Lee described the press room as a "crime scene " and saidthat the operation was aimed at those who use reporting as a "tool to endanger " national security.
He did not give details of the dozens of articles police said they were targeting, but said the five were arrested for conspiring to "use journalistic work " to instigate foreign forces to impose sanctions in Hong Kong and China.
"Normal journalists are different from these people. Don't collude with them " he told reporters.
"Do your journalistic work as freely as you want according to the law, provided you do not conspire or do not 'have no intention of breaking ... the national security law. "
Chief Superintendent Li Kwai-wah told the tabloid the reports dated back to 2019, without specifyingthe date of publication of the most recent. The legislation is not retroactive but prosecutors can use earlier implemented actions as evidence.
Police also froze $ 18 million HK ($ 2.32 million) in assets held by three companies linked to Apple Daily and said the raid was not targeting the media industry as a whole.
This was the second time that the National Security Police raided Apple Daily headquarters; 200 officers went last year to arrest Lai on suspicion of collusion with foreign forces.
Lai has been in detention since December, is denied bail under the security law and serving several sentences for participating in unauthorized rallies, including during mass protests for democracy in theglobal financial center in 2019.
The security law was Beijing's first major move to put China's most turbulent city on an authoritarian path. It punishes everything Beijing considers to be subversion, secessionism, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces up to life imprisonment.
"This is a blatant attack on the editorial side of Apple Daily ", a Mark Simon, an advisor to Lai who is outside Hong Kong, told Hfrance.fr. "They are arresting the best writers. "
When he thinks the newspaper can survive, Simon replied: " They decide, not us "in reference to the authorities.
The Chinese Liaison Office in Hong Kong said it strongly supports what it described as a "fair action " by the police.
'THE ORWELLIAN LAW
Images released by Apple Daily showed police officers sitting at reporters' desks and using their computers A person broadcasting a live feed for the Apple Daily Facebook page said reporters were unable to access certain floors or were provided their equipment or laptops.
Editor-in-chief Law was seen walking in handcuffs, flanked by police officers. The general news office of the Apple Daily newspaper has told journalists in a text message seen by Hfrance.fr to continue their missions outside the building for the moment.
The blow is the last blow toApple Daily after authorities last month led the actions of jailed tycoon Lai in Next Digital (0282.HK) , journal editor, will be frozen.
In May, Hfrance.fr reported that the Hong Kong security chief sent letters to Lai and branches of HSBC and Citibank, threatening up to seven years in prison for any transaction with the accounts billionaire in the city. en read more
Apple Daily is a shameless tabloid that mixes pro-democracy rhetoric, celebrity gossip and surveys of those in power, and is popular in Hong Kong.
"Arrests ... under the National Security Act oRwellians from Hong Kong destroy any remaining fiction that Hong Kong supports press freedom, "said Steven But ler, Asia program coordinator of the Committee to Protect Journalists.
"China, which controls Hong Kong, may be able to eliminate the newspaper, which it sees as an annoying critic, but only at a high price to be paid by locals of Hong Kong, who have enjoyed decades of free access to information, "he added. Reporting by Tony Munroe; Editing by Jacqueline Wong
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