Taipei, June 28, 2021 – Hong Kong authorities should immediately release journalist Fung Wai-kong, drop any charges against him, and allow all members of the press to work freely, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
At about 10 p.m. yesterday, police at Hong Kong International Airport arrested Fung, a former senior editorial writer for the pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily, while he was attempting to board a flight to the United Kingdom, on suspicion of “conspiring to collude with foreign countries or foreign forces,” a crime under the national security law, according to news reports.
Fung wrote columns for Apple Daily since 1997 and was the managing editor for the newspaper’s English edition, according to reports, which said he had recently resigned from the paper. His last column in the newspaper was published on June 21. He also wrote columns for Citizen News, a crowd-funded Chinese-language news website, those reports said.
Fung is at least the seventh Apple Daily employee to be arrested since police raided the newspaper’s office and detained five of its executives on June 17 and editorial writer Yeung Ching-kee, who wrote under the pen name Li Ping, on June 23, as CPJ has documented. Yeung was released on bail on June 25, according to news reports.
Also on June 23, the newspaper announced that it was shutting down.
“In the wake of the forced closure last week of the pro-democracy Apple Daily newspaper, Hong Kong authorities’ arrest last night of former editorial writer Fung Wai-kong looks like an act of sheer vengeance,” said Steven Butler, CPJ’s Asia program coordinator, in Washington, D.C. “Hong Kong authorities should immediately release Fung, drop any charges against him, and allow all journalists to live and work freely.”
CPJ emailed the Hong Kong police for comment, but did not receive any reply.
The Hong Kong Journalists Association released a statement condemning Fung’s arrest, saying, “If [authorities] can’t even tolerate writers’ pen, Hong Kong will hardly be regarded as an international city.”
Separately, the pro-democracy news website Stand News announced yesterday that it had temporarily taken down columns from its website to protect its supporters, writers, and reporters, and will consider republishing them if the authors are willing to do so in light of the recent crackdown. That announcement also stated that six directors of the outlet’s parent company had resigned.
Apple Daily founder Jimmy Lai is currently in prison and on trial for alleged violations of the national security law, as CPJ has documented. In a separate case, Lai was sentenced on April 16 to 14 months in prison for allegedly organizing and participating in illegal demonstrations in 2019. On June 21, the CPJ board announced that it will honor Lai with its 2021 Gwen Ifill Press Freedom Award.
On December 1, 2020, CPJ found that at least 47 journalists were imprisoned in China, making it the worst jailer of journalists worldwide for the second year in a row.