Police say their latest raid on Apple Daily and the arrest of five of the media group's executives are linked to newspaper articles allegedly calling for foreign sanctions, as they warned the public they could face prosecution for sharing the reports on social media.
Senior superintendent Steve Li said the Apple Daily articles were suspected of breaching Hong Kong's national security law.
Li, who heads the force's national security department, added that Secretary for Security John Lee had made an order to freeze HK$18 million worth of assets from Apple Daily Limited, Apple Daily Printing Limited and AD Internet Limited.
Li said around 500 officers had taken part in raids targeting the pro-democracy newspaper since 6am on Thursday, after a court warrant was issued allowing the searches, as well as the seizure of journalistic material, phones and computers.
He said the Apple Daily office in Tseung Kwan O was now a crime scene and access would be restricted. But he added that “witnesses” would be present while officers collected evidence to make sure the process was “fair to everyone”.
Li said those arrested for allegedly colluding with foreign forces to endanger national security are company directors, claiming they played a crucial part in the publication of the articles in question – some of which dated back to 2019.
“Our inquiry revealed that, we found that on the newspaper and on the internet version, we found that so far about several, over 30 pieces of articles, which requested foreign countries or institutions to impose sanctions on Hong Kong and the People’s Republic of China, in English and Chinese as well,” Li said.
“We have very strong evidence that the questionable articles play a very crucial part for the conspiracy which provide the ammunition for the foreign countries and institutions or organisations to impose sanctions to Hong Kong and the People’s Republic of China."
He did not disclose any details about the articles, but suggested the public could find themselves in trouble if they shared them on social media.
“I also want to give a warning – don’t attract suspicion. If there’s no special circumstances for you to share it, I advise you not to do it, so as not to attract suspicion,” Li said.
Apple Daily said earlier that its editor-in-chief, Ryan Law, was among those arrested, along with deputy editor Chan Pui-man and chief executive editor Cheung Chi-wai.
It said the chief executive of parent company, Next Digital, Cheung Kim-hung, and the company's chief operating officer, Chow Tat-kuen, were also arrested.