Hong Kong journalist Lam Man-chung is being held in pretrial detention for allegedly conspiring to collude with foreign powers. Hong Kong police arrested Lam, executive editor-in-chief of the pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily and manager of its English edition, on July 21, 2021.
Apple Daily was a subsidiary of the media company Next Digital Limited, which published the newspaper from 1995 to 2021, according to the company’s corporate information page.
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.
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 June 27, police arrested Apple Daily’s senior editorial writer and the newspaper’s English edition managing editor Fung Wai-kong, who wrote under the pen name 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, news reports said.
Yeung and Fung were subsequently released on bail on June 25 and 29, respectively, according to news reports. On July 21, the day of Lam’s arrest, police revoked Yeung, Chan, and Fung’s bails and separately detained them, according to news reports.
Lam, 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.
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, Lam, 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.
Lam 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.
In an email signed by the “Duty Officer Police Public Relations Branch,” the Hong Kong police did not comment specifically on Lam’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.”