Accusations of colluding with foreigners . . .
On Thursday, Hong Kong National Security Police arrested the editor-in-chief and four other directors of Apple Daily, a pro-democracy tabloid. The police accused them of “collusion with a foreign country or with external elements to endanger national security.” A senior police official said that the tabloid has published more than 30 articles since 2019 calling for other countries to sanction Hong Kong and mainland China. These articles, the police claimed, provided “ammunition for foreign countries” to impose sanctions. Five hundred police officers were also dispatched to the newspaper’s offices with a warrant that allowed them to search for and seize journalistic materials.
Diminishing space for pro-democratic activists . . .
These latest arrests are happening as Hong Kong authorities continue to strengthen their crackdown on pro-democratic activists in the city. Just three weeks ago, Apply Daily’s owner, Jimmy Lai, and nine other activists were sentenced to prison terms ranging from 14 to 18 months for their role in an unauthorized protest on October 1, 2019. More recently, citing public health restrictions, the police banned this year’s June 4 vigil, which has been a rallying ground for pro-democratic activists to commemorate China’s Tiananmen Square crackdown in 1989. However, Thursday’s arrest was the first time that police have used the National Security Law to arrest journalists over articles published in their newspaper.
Hong Kong’s status as a financial hub questioned . . .
The intensifying political crackdown has prompted some multinational companies and expatriates to consider leaving Hong Kong for other financial hubs. After the National Security Law came into force in July of last year, The New York Times relocated its Hong Kong office to Seoul, citing concerns about Beijing’s crackdown. The Times’s decision was echoed in the financial sector, as financial companies such as Vanguard and Motley Fool left the city last year. More recently, in a survey of its members, the American Chamber of Commerce found that 42 per cent of the respondents are considering or planning to leave Hong Kong. As companies and expatriates exit, Hong Kong’s status as Asia’s premier financial hub is in question.