Four more former senior employees of the now-closed Apple Daily were charged under Hong Kong’s national security law on Wednesday night.
Police officers detained former associate publisher Chan Pui-man and ex-editorial writers Fung Wai-kong and Yeung Ching-kee when they answered bail following their arrest and release last month.
The fourth suspect was former executive editor-in-chief Lam Man-chung, who was taken into custody by officers from the force’s National Security Department after daybreak.
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The four have been charged with conspiracy to collude with foreign forces to endanger national security and are due to appear at West Kowloon Court on Thursday. The latest charges bring the total number being prosecuted in the case to six.
Eight people who held senior roles at the tabloid-style newspaper have been arrested since last month, while founder Jimmy Lai Chee-ying was arrested under the security law last year.
The force’s national security unit raided the Apple Daily offices on June 17 and arrested five company executives.
Publisher Cheung Kim-hung and editor-in-chief Ryan Law Wai-kwong were charged for their roles in the publication of more than 30 articles allegedly calling for foreign sanctions against Hong Kong and mainland Chinese officials.
Authorities later released Yeung and Fung, who was intercepted by police at the airport as he attempted to leave for Britain.
Speaking before the latest charges were laid, Secretary for Security Chris Tang Ping-keung said that while he would not comment on individual cases, police would pursue anyone who had committed an offence, regardless of background and profession.
“We have the obligation to arrest and prosecute them if they have violated the law,” he said. “I will not comment further as the case still needs further investigation.”
The Hong Kong Journalists Association said it was shocked and puzzled by the latest arrest, describing freedom of the press as the “cornerstone of an international city”.
“The association urges the government not to keep arresting journalists in the name of national security in a bid to create white terror in the field,” it said.
Apple Daily printed its farewell edition last month after authorities froze HK$18 million (US$2.32 million) of assets belonging to parent company Next Digital. Management said that without access to the funds it could no longer continue operating.
Lai is currently serving a 20-month jail sentence for his roles in three unauthorised demonstrations during the anti-government protests two years ago. He has been charged with one count of collusion with foreign forces and one count of conspiracy to collude.
The national security law, drafted by Beijing and taking effect in June last year, targets crimes of secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces. Offenders face a maximum punishment of life in jail.
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