Hong Kong journalist Ryan Law Wai-kwong is awaiting a sentence for conspiring to collude with foreign powers after pleading guilty in return for clemency on another charge. Police arrested Law, editor-in-chief of the pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily, on June 16, 2021.
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 Law, Next Digital Chief Operating Officer Royston Chow, Chief Executive Officer Cheung Kim-hung, 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 on China, as evidence. Police also raided the newspaper’s headquarters and the executives’ homes, and confiscated computers and documents, according to news reports.
The arrests of Law, Next Digital and Apple Daily founder Jimmy 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.
On August 13, Law and Cheung appeared before the West Kowloon Magistrates’ court for a hearing, and a judge denied Law’s bail application, according to news reports.
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.
Law is being held at the Lai Chi Kok Reception Centre where he was awaiting sentence in late 2022. On November 22, prosecutors agreed not to pursue the sedition charge and Law 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.