Police in Hong Kong have arrested a former senior journalist with the now-closed Apple Daily at the airport on Sunday night on a suspected national security offence, according to local media.
Police, who typically do not name arrested people, said in a statement that a 57-year-old man had been arrested at the airport for “conspiring to collude with foreign countries or foreign forces to endanger national security”.
They added that he had been detained and investigations were continuing.
The South China Morning Post and Citizen News identified the detainee as Fung Wai-kong, an editor and columnist at the now-closed pro-democracy tabloid.
He was believed to be leaving for the United Kingdom when he was arrested, they said.
Fung is the seventh member of staff at the pro-democracy Apple Daily newspaper to be arrested on national security grounds in recent weeks. The arrests come as authorities in Hong Kong crack down on dissent in the semi-autonomous city, arresting most of the city’s prominent pro-democracy figures and revamping Hong Kong’s election laws to keep opposition voices out of the legislature.
Earlier this month, authorities froze $2.3m worth of assets linked to the Apple Daily newspaper, forcing it to cease operations. The Apple Daily printed its final edition last week, citing employee safety and an inability to pay wages.
Hong Kong authorities say dozens of the paper’s articles may have violated a China-imposed national security law, the first instance of authorities taking aim at media reports under the legislation.
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.”
The shutdown of Apple Daily and the arrest of its journalists have sent a chill through Hong Kong’s media industry.
The online pro-democracy outlet Stand News said in a statement late on Sunday 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.
“In the past six and a half years, the Stand News team has been through trials and hardships with the people of Hong Kong, cherishing each other and weaving the common memory of Hong Kong’s survival,” it said in a statement.
“To pass on these memories, we will stick to our posts, walk with the people of Hong Kong … and write and record the news and happenings in Hong Kong.”