Fung Wai-kong

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Hong Kong columnist and editor Fung Wai-kong is being held in pretrial detention for allegedly conspiring to collude with foreign powers. Police arrested Fung, the pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily’s senior editorial writer and the managing editor for the newspaper’s English edition, several times in 2021, and he has been held since July 21.

Apple Daily was a subsidiary of Next Digital Limited, which published the newspaper from 1995 to 2021, according to the company’s corporate information page. Fung wrote columns for the newspaper since 1997 and his last column in the newspaper was published on June 21, 2021. He also wrote columns for Citizen News, a crowd-funded Chinese-language news website, according to news reports. 

On June 27, police arrested Fung, who wrote under the penname Lo Fung, on suspicion of “conspiring to collude with foreign countries or foreign forces,” a crime under the national security law, at Hong Kong International Airport, according to news reports.

Previously, on June 16, police also arrested Apple Daily’s associate publisher Chan Pui-man, editor-in-chief Ryan Law Wai-kwong, Next Digital’s chief operating officer Royston Chow, chief executive officer Cheung Kim Hung, Apple Action News platform director Cheung Chi-wai from their homes on suspicion of conspiring to collude with foreign forces, 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. Yeung and Fung were subsequently released on bail on June 25 and 29, according to news reports.

On June 23, police arrested the newspaper’s lead editorial writer Yeung Ching-kee, who wrote under the pen name Li Ping, on the same charge, news reports said. On the same day, the board of Next Digital announced that it would publish its last edition and shut down operations the next day after authorities froze its assets, according to 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

On July 21, police revoked Yeung, Chan, and Fung’s bails and separately 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.

Fung, 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.

On July 22, a court in Hong Kong denied Chan, Fung, Yeung, and Lam’s bail application, and formally charged them with “conspiring to collude with foreign forces,” accusing them of conspiring with Lai, Law, Cheung Kim hung, and three Next Digital entities to call for foreign sanctions against Hong Kong and China between July 1, 2020 and April 3, 2021, according to news reports

On October 12, Fung, 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.

Fung has pleaded not guilty to all the charges, according to a Next Digital executive who spoke to CPJ on the condition of anonymity, citing security concerns.

He is being held at the Lai Chi Kok Reception Centre, according news reports

In an email signed by the “Duty Officer Police Public Relations Branch,” the Hong Kong police did not comment specifically on Fung’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.”