A Hong Kong court denied bail to four former employees of the pro-democracy Apple Daily after they were charged with colluding with foreign forces under Beijing’s imposed national security law (English).
According to the Hong Kong Free Press, the bail applications of the employees were rejected Thursday due to the lack of evidence showing the defendants would not “commit further acts endangering national security.” Restrictions on bail reports typically reduce the available information to the names of the accused and the result, but Chief Magistrate Victor So partially lifted these restrictions, allowing the details to be known. The case has been adjourned until September 30.
RTHK identified the four individuals as two editorial writers and two top editors, including Editor-in-Chief Lam Man-chung. The group was arrested Wednesday according to the South China Morning Post, citing an unnamed source. All four were charged under Article 29 of the now year-old national security law; section 5 outlaws the provocation of Hong Kong residents against the “Government of the Region.”
The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) condemned the arrests, urging Hong Kong authorities to release the detainees immediately. The IFJ said in a statement that the “extensive persecution of Hong Kong journalists . . . has established a precedent for [how] media workers are treated by the authorities.” The sentiment is an echo of statements previously released by Amnesty International, the UN, and academics from across the western world.
The arrests continue a pattern of censorship against dissident voices emerging within Hong Kong. Hong Kong courts have made a habit of sentencing pro-democracy protestors and those organizing and attending the yearly Tiananmen Square Vigil. Media Tycoon Jimmy Lai, who owns Apple Daily, saw his assets frozen after he was arrested and sentenced under the national security law. The offices of Apple Daily were raided a month ago; that day, Hong Kong police arrested five of their executives and seized journalistic material. The raid effectively shuttered the publication. Apple Daily has not published since June 24.
China imposed the national security law a year ago after protests over a proposed extradition law amendment would establish mechanisms to transfer Hong Kong prisoners to mainland China more easily. The amendment was eventually dropped, but protests continued over fears of escalating police violence and encroachment of the CCP’s influence over Hong Kong politics. The national security law was drafted in response.