Hong Kong national security police arrested a former senior editor of Apple Daily on Wednesday, weeks after the paper was forced to close its doors after having its assets frozen and office raided by authorities, according to The Associated Press (AP).
Lam Man-chung, the former executive editor-in-chief of the pro-democracy paper, was arrested on suspicion of conspiring to collude with foreign forces to endanger national security, The AP reported. Lam is now the eighth person from Apple Daily to have been arrested since the Chinese government began targeting the paper last month.
The former associate publisher and deputy chief editor Chan Pui-man and chief editorial writer Fung Wai-kong were also detained Wednesday after having their bail revoked, The AP reported. Chan was one of the five paper’s executives and editors arrested on June 17, and Fung was arrested last month at the airport for “conspiring to collude with foreign countries or foreign forces to endanger national security,” Reuters reported at the time.
Hong Kong security minister Chris Tang reportedly defended the arrests of the journalists and denied the charge that they would create a climate of fear among members of the press. (RELATED: US Sanctions More Chinese Officials Over Crackdown On Hong Kong’s Democracy)
— Hong Kong Free Press HKFP (@hkfp) July 21, 2021
“Whoever committed an offense will be arrested, disregarding their background, whatever they do, or what are their professions,” Tang said, according to The AP. “It doesn’t really matter. If they committed an offense, they will be arrested. And if there is any evidence, they will be prosecuted.”
The Hong Kong Journalists Association lambasted the government’s “repeated targeting of journalists” from Apple Daily in a Facebook post Wednesday, and stated how it was “shocked and puzzled” by Lam’s arrest.
“Freedom of the press and the freedom to publish are important cornerstones for the success of an international city,” the post read.
National security police raided Apple Daily’s offices in June, reportedly seizing laptops and hard drives and freezing $2.3 million in assets, The AP reported.
The Chinese government imposed a sweeping national security law last year after months of pro-democracy protests in 2019. The law allows for state-security agencies from mainland China to operate in the semi-autonomous city, which critics say allows for the Chinese government to more effectively root out political dissent, as previously reported.
Lawmakers from both parties in the U.S. have criticized the Chinese government’s severe crackdown on opposition in Hong Kong.
At the time of Apple Daily’s closure, President Joe Biden released a statement blasting Beijing for denying Hongkongers their “basic liberties,” and for assaulting the city’s “autonomy and democratic institutions and processes.”
Republican Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska issued a statement Wednesday ridiculing Chinese President Xi Jinping.
“Chairman Xi is a coward — too afraid of what might happen if a pro-democracy newspaper tells the truth about his Communist Party,” Sasse said. “We have a duty to shine a light on these arrests so the world knows about the truth-telling heroes at Apple Daily.”