Hong Kong police have arrested the former executive editor-in-chief of the now-closed Apple Daily newspaper, according to reports, the latest arrest in a national security investigation of media tycoon Jimmy Lai’s pro-democracy tabloid.
Police, who typically do not identify individuals under investigation, said in a statement on Wednesday they had arrested a 51-year-old former male newspaper editor on suspicion of “conspiring to collude with foreign countries or foreign forces to endanger national security”.
A police source of the AFP news agency identified the detained man as Lam Man-chung, the Apple Daily’s former executive editor-in-chief.
Lam is the ninth employee of the Apple Daily arrested under a sweeping national security law that Beijing imposed on Hong Kong last year after huge pro-democracy protests.
There was no immediate comment by Next Digital, the media group which published the Apple Daily.
The popular tabloid of staunch Beijing critic Jimmy folded after several hundred police raided its headquarters on June 17 and froze key assets and bank accounts.
It printed its last edition on June 24.
Jimmy, 73, is also currently in prison and has been charged with collusion alongside two other executives who have been denied bail.
They face up to life in prison if convicted.
Among the others arrested, but not charged, are two of the paper’s leading editorial writers, including one who was detained at Hong Kong’s airport as he tried to leave the city.
Police said dozens of the paper’s articles may have also violated the national security law, the first instance of authorities taking aim at media reports under the controversial legislation.
Critics of the law, introduced in June 2020, say it has been used to muzzle dissent and erode fundamental freedoms, including those of the media, in the former British colony which returned to Chinese rule in 1997.
Observers have described the Apple Daily’s sudden demise as a stark warning to all media outlets on the reach of the national security law in a city that once billed itself as a beacon of press freedom in the region. Last week, the Hong Kong Journalists Association said media freedoms were “in tatters”.
Authorities have denied the erosion of rights and freedoms in Hong Kong, but have said acts that endanger China’s national security cross a red line.
Security officials have said law enforcement actions are based on evidence and have nothing to do with an individual’s background or profession.