Hong Kong police have arrested the editor-in-chief and four other senior executives of the pro-democracy Apple Daily newspaper under the national security law and were searching its offices, according to media reports.
Apple Daily is known for its strong pro-democracy stance and often criticises and condemns the Chinese and Hong Kong governments for tightening control over the city.
The arrests and police search on Thursday morning are the latest moves by Hong Kong authorities in a crackdown on dissent in the semi-autonomous Chinese city following months of anti-government protests in 2019.
Apple Daily‘s chief editor Ryan Law, Next Digital chief executive Cheung Kim-hung, the publisher’s chief operating officer and two other editors were arrested, according to Apple Daily, the South China Morning Post and other local media.
The government said security police had arrested five directors of a company for “suspected contravention” of the national security law.
The four men and one woman aged between 47 and 63 were arrested on suspicion of collusion with a “foreign country or with external elements to endanger national security”.
More than 200 police officers were involved in the search of Apple Daily‘s offices.
When Hong Kong was handed over to China by the British in 1997, Beijing had promised the territory it could retain its freedoms not found on the mainland for 50 years.
Critics now say those freedoms are diminishing as China tightens its grip following the implementation of a sweeping national security law that outlaws secession, subversion, terrorism and foreign collusion.
The law has been used to arrest more than a hundred pro-democracy figures since June last year.
It is the second time police have conducted an operation on Apple Daily after founder Jimmy Lai and other executives were arrested last year on suspicion of national security law violations or fraud.
Lai is serving a 20-month prison sentence for his role in unauthorised assemblies in 2019, during a period of massive anti-government protests.
Last month, authorities froze Lai’s assets and shares in Next Digital.