For a long time, Hong Kong has remained as the last bastion of press freedom on China’s soil, but today’s arrest preludes a new dark era of media censorship, said prominent Hong Kong democracy activist Joshua Wong on his Facebook page on Monday night (10 Aug).
Writing on his Facebook page, Mr Wong, who was also the secretary-general of the disbanded pro-democracy party Demosistō pledged to pray for the ten “freedom-loving Hong Kongers” who were arrested under new National Security Law on Monday, including ‘Apple Daily’ founder Jimmy Lai and his ex-partymate Agnes Chow.
Mr Wong pointed out that the arrest of his ex-partymate has “clearly proven that the national security law is retrospective”.
“My former colleague Agnes Chow was also arrested for violating the new security law, even though she has quitted Demosistō and her twitter account has stopped operating before the enactment of the law. Clearly, it proves that the national security law is retrospective.”
Denouncing the move of police raiding Apple Daily’s building, he noted that it is “Beijing’s move attempts to send a chilling warning to the city’s critical reporters”.
“The arrest is just one of Beijing’s attack on our press freedom.”
Mr Wong continued to describe that a new national security unit has even been set up in the immigration department to vet foreign correspondents’ visa applications and renewals prior to the enactment of new National Security Law.
Not only this, he also cited the “new restrictive measure” imposed first time by police on reporters and media coverage, where the international media outlets such as Reuters, AFP and AP have been barred from covering the raid of Apple Daily.
“From now on, reporters can only cover the news with the police permission, which is clearly a deadly blow to the city’s press freedom.”
Noting that the “media newsrooms become China’s new target”, Mr Wong concerned that this city which known as “international financial hub” may no longer be open and free if the free flow of information “faces unprecedented political pressure”.
The activist also said that the chance of bail “seemed slim” under this new law, while cautioning the high possibility of being extradited to China’s secret courts and black prisons.
For the police’s arrest and move, Mr Wong called that it is a “painful day for every freedom-loving Hongkonger in the city”, but the people will not surrender “even though the darkest night has fallen upon us”.
“However, even though the darkest night has fallen upon us, with news coverage becoming the new Orwellian thoughtcrime, Hongkongers will not surrender. Now it is not just a fight for democracy and liberty, but also a battle between truth and lies.”
As part of the sweeping crackdown on dissent since China imposed a security law on the city, the Hong Kong police had detained ten people, including Hong Kong pro-democracy media tycoon Jimmy Lai under the new law with 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.
Meanwhile over hundred police officers have conducted a raid on Mr Lai’s newspaper office, Apple Daily headquarters, claiming to gather evidence for offences related to national security law.