Hong Kong media executive Cheung Kim Hung is being held in pretrial detention for allegedly conspiring to collude with foreign powers. Police arrested Cheung on June 16, 2021.
Cheung is the former chief executive officer of the Next Digital Limited, a media company that published the pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily from 1995 to 2021, and Next Magazine from 1989 to 2021, according to the company’s corporate information page and a public announcement of his resignation from the company published on July 8, 2021.
Hong Kong police arrested Cheung, Next Digital Chief Operating Officer Royston Chow, Apple Daily editor-in-chief Ryan Law Wai-kwong, associate publisher Chan Pui-man, 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.
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.
Cheung was previously arrested along with Next Digital founder Jimmy Lai and three other executives on suspicion of conspiracy to defraud on August 10, 2020, reports said.
Cheung, Apple Daily founder Jimmy Lai, and other executives’ arrests 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.
Prosecutors accused Law, Cheng, Lai, and three Next Digital subsidiaries—Apple Daily Limited, Apple Daily Printing Limited, and AD Internet Limited—of conspiring to collude with foreign forces to endanger national security by asking foreign countries, institutions, organizations, or individuals outside mainland China, Hong Kong, and Macao to impose sanctions or blockades, or engaging in other hostile activities against Hong Kong or China, according to those reports.
If convicted, Chung could face up to life imprisonment, according to the Hong Kong government’s legislation database.
On October 12, Cheung, Lai, and other Next Digital executives appeared at the West Kowloon Magistrates’ Court, where their national security cases were adjourned to December 28, according to news reports.
On November 5, the Hong Kong Hight Court rejected Cheung’s bail application, citing a lack of “sufficient grounds for believing that [Cheung] will not continue to commit acts endangering national security, “according to the court decision published on November 10.
Cheung has pleaded not guilty to all of the charges, according to a Next Digital executive who spoke to CPJ on the condition of anonymity, citing security concerns.
In an email signed by the “Duty Officer Police Public Relations Branch,” the Hong Kong police did not comment specifically on Cheung’s case, but wrote in September 2021 that some people arrested in the city “tried to make use of journalistic work to collude with a foreign country or external elements to impose sanction against Hong Kong and the PRC.” The email stated that such actions “deviated from the work of a professional journalist.”
The email also stated, “If any organisation or person violates the Hong Kong National Security Law or other offences, Police will conduct investigation and make arrest or prosecution according to evidence collected.”