Over 100 Hong Kong police raided Apple Daily headquarters after founder Jimmy Lai arrested; Apple Daily decried the raid as “a severe attack on press freedom”

Following the arrests of Hong Kong media tycoon Jimmy Lai under the new national security law on Monday (10 August), over hundred police officers have conducted a raid on the Apple Daily headquarters – the publication office founded by Mr Lai.

According to Hong Kong police Facebook post, the police entered and searched the building with a warrant issued by a magistrate to gather evidence for offences related to national security law.

“Police officers showed and explained the warrant to the staff in the building and asked for cooperation,” it said.

In the video footage posted by the media, the police officers were seen walking around, examining and flipping through the documents and files on the staff’s desks.

However, the act of police officers flipping through journalists’ documents was seemed contradicting to what the National Security Department’s Steve Li said that the officers were sent in to conduct “initial review” to determine which departments or units were entitled to search under the warrant.

The police officers were also refrained from searching departments that handle news and journalistic materials, reported by Hong Kong Free Press.

Police were seen carting away boxes of what they said was evidence at Lai’s pro-democracy Next Digital headquarters.

Meanwhile, it can also be seen that dozens of blue boxes have been taken away by the police officers from the buildings.

Following this, Apple Daily issued a statement on Monday, stating that the staff members have been ordered to stop working and leave after the police officers cordoned off the office.

“The action came despite a pledge by senior superintendent Li Kwai-wah, who led the raid, that the search would not cover areas storing journalistic material including the editorial department,” the statement read.

It noted that their publication’s operations have been disrupted due to the raid, but some staff members were allowed to go back to their seat and continue working after permitted by the police officers.

“Before the police showed a search warrant to Apple Daily staff members at the scene, at least two officers were seen flipping through documents on reporters’ desks. The officers continued despite requests by staff members for them to stop,” Apple Daily said.

Raid of a news institution is a severe attack on press freedom and should not be tolerated in a civilized society, says Apple Daily

According to Apple Daily, the Next Media Trade Union has condemned the police action for breaching the confidentiality of news material and seriously undermined journalistic freedom by deploying “such a large number of officers” for the search appeared intended to obstruct operations and intimidate journalists.

It also added that journalists from other Hong Kong media outlets were barred from entering the building to report on the police search due to the justification of limited space.

“A police media coordinator told the reporters outside the office that ‘only a small number of local, sizable media outlets that have posed no threat to the police in past operations’ were allowed to enter, TV footage taken by public broadcaster RTHK showed,” it stated in its statement.

In another statement, Apple Daily decried the raid of a news institution as “a severe attack on press freedom and should not be tolerated in a civilized society”.

Noting that the police officers have “blatantly bypassed the law and abused their power” despite claims about acting according to the rules, it stressed that the staff members will stay fearless and continue speaking the truth amid persecution.

“The regime believes that we will be silenced by intimidation and harassment, and that they can take an international city down the path of autocracy. Hong Kong’s press freedom is now hanging by a thread, but our staff will remain fully committed to our duty to defend the freedom of the press.

“As Publisher of Apple Daily Cheung Kim Hung says: Apple Daily shall fight on,” it added.

Hong Kong media tycoon Jimmy Lai: I’m prepared for prison

Media tycoon Mr Lai was among ten people detained on charges including colluding with foreign forces — one of the new national security offences — and fraud in an operation targeting his Next Digital publishing group.

Among the others arrested were two of Mr Lai’s sons, young pro-democracy activist Agnes Chow and Wilson Li, a former activist who describes himself as a freelance journalist working for Britain’s ITV News.

Mr Lai spoke to AFP mid-June, two weeks before the new security law was imposed on Hong Kong on 30 June.

“I’m prepared for prison,” he said.

He described Beijing’s new security law as “a death knell for Hong Kong” and said he feared authorities would come after his journalists.

He also brushed off the collusion allegations, saying Hong Kongers had a right to meet with foreign politicians.

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August 2020