News

July 15, 2021 - Updated on September 3, 2021

Hong Kong: RSF denounces the government’s witch-hunt against Apple Daily staff

PHOTO: AFP
At least eight former staff members of Apple Daily, closed last month, have been arrested or are being prosecuted by Hong Kong authorities and are facing life in prison. Reporters Without Borders (RSF) denounces this witch-hunt and calls for all press freedom defenders’ immediate release and for all charges against them to be dropped.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Update - 21st July 2021 


Ninth former staff member of Apple Daily, executive editor-in-chief Lam Man-chung was arrested by police at his home under National Security Law and charged with "conspiracy to collude with foreign forces''. 


On the same day, Apple Daily’s ex-associate publisher Chan Pui-man and ex-senior journalist Fung Wai-kong, and ex-columnist Yeung Ching-kee were arrested for the second time and charged with "conspiracy to collude with foreign forces''. 

------------------------------------------------------------------------------


After having forced Apple Daily to close last month, the Hong Kong government is now targeting its former staff members, at least eight of them have been arrested or are currently being prosecuted for “conspiracy to collude with foreign forces'' under the China-imposed National Security Law, for which they face life in prison, and three of them are still detained including Apple Daily’s founder and 2020 RSF Press Freedom Awards laureate Jimmy Lai (see details below). The government has compiled at least 100 articles, commentaries and videos which have been used as ammunition to “incriminate” the eight Apple Daily defendants, except that, no other reasons were given to justify those arrests. 


By conducting this witch-hunt on former Apple Daily employees, the Hong Kong government is sending a chilling message to all journalists who still have the courage to report independently in the territory,” says RSF East Asia bureau head, Cédric Alviani, who urges the Hong Kong government “to drop charges against defendants and immediately release those kept in prison.”


In fear of the same outcome for its journalists, independent media outlet, Stand News made the decision to remove all opinion articles and columns from its website and on 27th of June, six of its directors resigned. 


Eight former Apple Daily Staff prosecuted

  • Jimmy Lai (detained): Apple Daily’s  founder, detained since 2nd of December, 2020, facing six procedures including two charges under the National Security Law, his next hearings are scheduled for the 23rd and 27th of July.
  • Ryan Law (detained): Apple Daily’s editor-in-chief arrested on the 17th of June, 2021, waiting for the trial in detention which is planned to be on August 13th. 
  • Cheung Kim-hung (detained): Apple Daily’s CEO arrested on the 17th of June, 2021, waiting for the trial in detention which is planned to be on August 13th. 
  • Royston Chow (granted bail): Apple Daily’s chief operating officer arrested on the 17th of June, 2021.
  • Chan Pui-man (granted bail): Apple Daily’s associate publisher arrested on the 17th of June, 2021.
  • Cheung Chi-wai (granted bail): Director of Apple Daily Digital arrested on the 17th of June, 2021.
  • Yeung Ching-kee (granted bail): (pen name Li Ping) Apple Daily’s lead editorial writer and columnist known for his criticism of Chinese regime, arrested on 23rd of June, 2021.
  • Fung Wai-kong (granted bail): Apple Daily’s senior journalist and executive editor-in-chief of English section arrested on 27th of June, 2021 at the airport when he reportedly tried to leave for the United Kingdom. 


At the end of June, Apple Daily was forced to close after the Hong Kong government froze the media outlet’s financial assets and left the media unable to pay their employees and suppliers. RSF has recently submitted two appeals urging the United Nations to “take all necessary measures” to safeguard press freedom in Hong Kong and obtain the immediate release of the Apple Daily founder Jimmy Lai.


Hong Kong, once a bastion of press freedom, has fallen from 18th place in 2002 to 80th place in the 2021 RSF World Press Freedom Index. The People's Republic of China, the world’s largest captor of journalists with at least 119 detained, often in life-threatening conditions, for its part, has stagnated at 177th out of 180.