Hong Kong authorities on Monday arrested a veteran journalist on charges of sedition, making him the latest government critic to face possible jail time in the once freewheeling financial hub.
Local media reported early on Monday that Allan Au, age 54, had been arrested at 6am for “conspiracy to publish seditious material” in his contributions to Stand News, a shuttered pro-democracy news outlet.
Hong Kong police did not immediately confirm Au’s arrest to Al Jazeera, but a notice on the city’s government news portal described the arrest of an unnamed man fitting Au’s description.
The notice said the “arrestee is being detained for further inquiries”.
Stand News was one of several pro-democracy news outlets forced to shut down last year after police raided its offices and arrested senior staff on sedition charges.
Other outlets include Apple Daily, whose top executives were arrested under new national security legislation, and Citizen News, which shut down citing safety concerns.
Prior to his arrest, Au was employed as a consultant at the Chinese University of Hong Kong’s School of Journalism and Communication.
Au previously hosted a radio programme for 11 years on public broadcaster RTHK until the station underwent a management overhaul last year and fired many of its longtime employees.
At the time, Au told the media that his dismissal may have been linked to his critical reporting on the Hong Kong government, according to RTHK.
Maya Wang, a senior researcher at Human Rights Watch, said on Twitter the arrest of Au, a “moderate journalist and political commentator”, sent the message to all journalists in Hong Kong that “no one is safe”.
While Au was arrested by Hong Kong’s new national security unit, police have made use of a sedition law from the city’s British colonial era.
The law was used by colonial authorities against potential political agitators, including suspected communists, but fell out of use in the 1970s.
Hong Kong’s sedition law is separate from the city’s national security legislation, which was imposed on the city by Beijing in 2020, but both have been used to crack down on journalists, activists and opposition politicians.
Last week, Hong Kong arrested six people for alleged sedition after they clapped during court hearings in December and January.