Hong Kong police arrest Apple Daily columnist on security charge

Hong Kong Apple Daily close watson pkg intl hnk vpx_00022322

The HKSAR chief executive reiterated the HKSAR government's determination to implement the national security law.

It said the decision was "based on employee safety and manpower considerations".

The police operation against Apple Daily has drawn criticism from the USA and Britain, which say Hong Kong and Chinese authorities are targeting the city's promised freedoms.

The decision came hours after police arrested a columnist for the paper and days after authorities froze $2.3 million in company assets and arrested five editors and executives under the territory's draconian national security law, which was imposed previous year by mainland China's ruling Communist Party.

Authorities have said dozens of Apple Daily pieces may have violated the security law, which Beijing imposed on the city past year, the first instance of authorities taking aim at media reports under the legislation.

Footage showed his motorbike was flying a flag that read "Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our times", a popular protest slogan now deemed illegal under the security law.

Under the new law, the burden is now placed on the defendant to prove they will not break the law if released on bail.

The arrests and freezing of assets came as Hong Kong authorities crack down on dissenting voices as Beijing tightens control over the territory in what critics say is an erosion of freedoms it promised the city for 50 years when the former British colony was handed over to China in 1997.

The government campaign against Apple Daily, which included raids of its newsroom by hundreds of police officers, caps months of scrutiny of Hong Kong's once-vibrant independent media landscape.

At a regular press conference, Lam expressed her support for the enforcement authorities of Hong Kong in defending national security, saying the HKSAR government will act strictly in accordance with the law so as to avoid the national security law to exist in name only.

In May, Reuters reported exclusively that Hong Kong's security chief had sent letters to tycoon Mr Lai and branches of HSBC and Citibank threatening up to seven years' jail for any dealings with the billionaire's accounts in the city. HSBC declined to comment.

'We can't bank. Some vendors tried to do that as a favour. and it was rejected'.

It said endangering national security is a very serious crime.

'After all this is said and done, the business community is going to look up and recognise that a man's company was gutted and stolen by a communist regime in Hong Kong, ' he said.