Hong Kong journalist Chan Pui-man is awaiting sentencing for conspiring to collude with foreign powers after pleading guilty in return for clemency on another charge. Police arrested Chan, the pro-democracy Apple Daily’s associate publisher, several times in 2021, and she has been held since July 21.
Apple Daily, a subsidiary of the media company Next Digital Limited, was published from 1995 to 2021, according to the company’s corporate information page.
Hong Kong police arrested Chan, Next Digital Chief Operating Officer Royston Chow, Chief Executive Officer Cheung Kim-hung, Apple Daily editor-in-chief Ryan Law Wai-kwong, and Apple Action News platform director Cheung Chi Wai from their homes on June 16, 2021, on suspicion of conspiring to collude with foreign forces, a crime under Hong Kong’s national security law, according to news reports. Chan, Chow, and Cheung Chi Wai were released on bail on June 18, after 40 hours of detention, according to news reports. Chow was later granted immunity for testifying against Lai.
According to the South China Morning Post, police cited over 30 articles published by Apple Daily, mostly commentary and opinion pieces calling for foreign sanctions, as evidence. Police also raided the newspaper’s headquarters and the executives’ homes, and confiscated computers and documents, according to news reports.
On June 23, the board of Next Digital announced that Apple Daily it would publish its last edition and shut down operations the next day after authorities froze its assets, according to reports.
Also on June 23, police arrested Apple Daily lead editorial writer Yeung Ching-kee, and on June 27 arrested the senior editorial writer and managing editor for the newspaper’s English edition, Fung Wai-kong, on collusion charges; Yeung and Fung were subsequently released on bail, according to news reports.
On July 21, police revoked Chan, Yeung, and Fung’s bails and detained them, according to news reports. On the same day, police arrested former executive editor-in-chief Lam Man-chung on suspicion of “conspiring to collude with foreign forces,” reports said. On July 22, a court denied Chan, Fung, Yeung, and Lam’s bail applications and formally charged them with collusion under the national security law, according to news reports.
Prosecutors accuse the four of conspiring with Law, Cheung Kim-hung, Next Digital and Apple Daily founder Jimmy Lai, and three Next Digital entities to call for foreign sanctions against Hong Kong and China between July 1, 2020, and April 3, 2021.
The arrests of Chan, Lai, and other executives came amid authorities’ crackdown on the city’s pro-democracy movement, which targeted many media figures and activists critical of the government and the Chinese Communist Party.
Chan was awaiting sentence in late 2022. On November 22, prosecutors agreed not to pursue the sedition charge and Chan pleaded guilty to the collusion charge, though a sentence was not announced, according to news reports. The maximum sentence is life imprisonment, according to the Hong Kong government’s legislation database.
In September 2022, CPJ emailed the Hong Kong Police Force requesting comment, but did not receive any response.