Hong Kong media executive Cheung Kim-hung is awaiting sentencing for conspiring to collude with foreign powers after pleading guilty in return for clemency on another charge. 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. 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.
Cheung was previously arrested along with Lai, the founder of Next Digital and Apple Daily, and three other executives on August 10, 2020 on suspicion of conspiracy to defraud, reports said.
Their 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, Cheung, 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.
Held at the Lai Chi Kok Reception Centre, Cheung was awaiting sentence in late 2022. On November 22, prosecutors agreed not to pursue the sedition charge and Cheung 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.
CPJ emailed the Hong Kong Police Force requesting comment, but did not receive any response.