A media academic and a veteran pro-democracy leader condemned the “outrageous” police raid on the Apple Daily, saying it is an act aimed at intimidating the media in Hong Kong.
Veteran journalist Keith Richburg, who’s also the director of University of Hong Kong’s Journalism and Media Studies Centre, said the police raid on Apple Daily’s office is outrageous, and said it marks the end of media freedom in the SAR.
Richburg added that since the national security law allows closed-door trials, the public may never know why Jimmy Lai and his colleagues are arrested, and why the office search was conducted.
He said he’s never seen similar raids carried out even in authoritarian states.
The former Washington Post journalist said this should be marked as the day freedom of the press died in Hong Kong.
“The police arrested a newspaper publisher and executives … and actually walk in with huge numbers of officers into a newsroom. I think you can say that is the day press freedom officially died.”
He told RTHK's Maggie Ho: "It didn’t die a natural death. It was killed. It was killed by Beijing, Carrie Lam and Hong Kong police."
Meanwhile, pro-democracy leader Lee Cheuk-yan said the arrests were aimed at suppressing Apple Daily and creating a chilling effect on the media sector.
“It’s a suppression or harassment of Apple Daily because it’s not just Jimmy Lai but also senior staff of Apple Daily,” he said.
“Apple Daily is doing everything under the sunshine. What they reported on the media is only reporting. And if reporting becomes sort of a collusion, this is very much of an obviously stifling of freedom of press and freedom of speech,” he said.
He said the arrests could be in retaliation for the sanctions imposed by the US on eleven mainland and Hong Kong officials.
Police in a social media statement had said they were executing a search warrant issued under article 43 of the national security law, and they have shown and explained the contents of the court warrant to the staff.
Steve Li, a senior superintendent of the police’s national security department, told the media that because the raid could involve news material, they had done "preliminary checks" in order to prevent searching the editorial section.
He said officers had showed the warrant to the company and the raid was going on smoothly.
Li didn't take any questions but said police hope to complete the raid as quickly as possible, so that operations at the media company won't be affected.