Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Cops arrest Apple Daily journalist departing Hong Kong airport

Reporting in Hong Kong is now risky and many journalists are afraid of prosecution.

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Hong Kong police arrested a journalist with the Apple Daily newspaper at the international airport on Sunday night as he tried to leave the city, according to local media reports.

He was an editor and columnist at the now-closed paper, local media reported.

The South China Morning Post and online news outlet Citizen News cited unidentified sources saying that Fung Wai-kong was arrested on suspicion of foreign collusion to endanger national security.

Fung was believed to be leaving for Britain when he was arrested, local media reported.

Police said they arrested a 57-year-old man at the airport on Sunday night under the national security law, but did not identify him.

Apple Daily, a popular tabloid, was forced to close following a raid by several hundred police on its headquarters on June 17 and the freezing of key assets and bank accounts. It printed its last edition on Thursday.

Authorities say dozens of the paper’s articles may have violated a Beijing-imposed national security law.

Critics of the law, introduced last June, say it has been used to stifle dissent and erode fundamental freedoms in the former British colony that returned to Chinese rule in 1997.

Many media sources say the closure of Apple Daily, which mixed pro-democracy views with celebrity gossip and investigations of those in power, marks the end of media freedom in the city.

The Hong Kong Journalists’ Association, reacting to reports of the airport arrest, condemned the police for targeting journalists again, and asked them to explain the incident.

“The HKJA reiterates that freedom of speech and freedom of the press are core values of Hong Kong,” it said in a statement. “If even the writing of the literati cannot be tolerated, it will be difficult for Hong Kong to be regarded as an international city.”

Ronson Chan of the HKJA told CNBC that reporting in Hong Kong is now risky and many journalists are afraid of prosecution.

Fung’s arrest also comes as pro-democracy online news outlet Stand News said in a statement that it would remove commentaries published on its site before June and halt its fundraising efforts because of concerns over the sweeping national security law.

The measures were taken to protect the news outlet’s supporters, writers and editorial staffers in the “literary inquisition” of Hong Kong, Stand News said in a statement.

Despite the precautionary measures taken, Stand News pledged to keep reporting the news.

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