Hong Kong columnist Yeung Ching-kee is awaiting a sentence for conspiring to collude with foreign powers after pleading guilty in return for clemency on another charge. Hong Kong police arrested Yeung, the pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily’s former lead editorial writer, several times in 2021, and he has been held since July 21, 2021.
Yeung wrote for the Apple Daily, a subsidiary of the Next Digital Limited media company, which published the newspaper from 1995 to 2021, according to the company’s corporate information page.
On June 23, Hong Kong national security police arrested Yeung, who wrote under the pen name Li Ping, on suspicion of “conspiring to collude with foreign countries or foreign forces,” a crime under the national security law, according to news reports.
On the same day, the board of Next Digital announced that it would publish its last edition and shut down operations the following day after authorities froze its assets.
On June 27, police arrested the newspaper’s English edition editorial writer Fung Wai-kong at Hong Kong International Airport on collusion charges, reports said. Yeung and Fung were subsequently released on bail on June 25 and 29 respectively, according to news reports.
Separately, on June 16, police arrested Next Digital Chief Operating Officer Royston Chow, Chief Executive Officer Cheung Kim-hung, Apple Daily editor-in-chief Ryan Law Wai-kwong, associate editor Chan Pui-man, and Apple Action News platform director Cheung Chi Wai from their homes on suspicion of conspiring to collude with foreign forces, 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.
On July 21, police revoked Chan, Yeung, and Fung’s bails and 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.
The arrests of Yeung, Next Digital and Apple Daily founder Jimmy Lai, and other Apple Daily 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 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.
Yeung is 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 Yeung 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.
In September 2022, CPJ emailed the Hong Kong Police Force requesting comment, but did not receive any response.