July 26, 2021

In Hong Kong, the “Apple Daily”, at bay, stands up to the authorities

After being arrested Thursday, June 17, and charged on Friday, under the draconian new national security law (LSN), the director general of the press group Next Digital, Cheung Kim-hung, and the editor of the tabloid d ‘opposition Apple Daily, Ryan Law, were remanded into custody on Saturday, June 19.

On Thursday morning, police arrested the five main leaders of the pro-democracy newspaper at their homes, indicating that they were “Suspected of having conspired to conspire with foreign forces”, one of the four crimes covered by the LSN, imposed by Beijing in the spring of 2020 following several months of unrest and anti-government riots in 2019, and which entered into force on June 30, 2020. The crime of which they are accused is ‘titled “collusion with a foreign country or with external elements, with a view to endangering national security”. He is liable to life imprisonment. Three of the five defendants were released Friday evening, after more than 36 hours in police custody.

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At the end of the first hearing of the two defendants, on Saturday, Judge Victor So decided to keep the two men in prison, citing the conditions cited by the national security law, which recommends keeping the defendants in detention almost automatically, unlike a fundamental principle of “common law”, the Hong Kong legal system, which provides for exactly the opposite.

“A criminal suspect or an accused will not be entitled to parole, unless the judge has sufficient evidence to allow him to believe that the criminal suspect or the accused will not continue to commit acts endangering the national security “, thus indicates article 42 of the LSN. And when a case is handled under the LSN, it takes precedence over any other principle of law or concept of justice.

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The lawyers of the two men had however announced a series of measures to reassure the judge: the defendants undertook to leave their functions and not to make any more public comments, in any form. They also offered to return their passports and pay very large deposits. One of the two even suggested being under house arrest. But the judge felt that all this did not eliminate the risk that the two men “Continue to endanger national security”

The next appearance of the newspaper’s boss and editor is due in seven weeks, on August 13. Prosecutors estimated that police needed time to examine the contents of the forty computers and sixteen servers seized from the newsroom. Because, simultaneously with the arrest of the five leaders of the newspaper Thursday morning, the police had also disembarked en masse at the headquarters of the newspaper and had blocked the bank accounts of the company. Behind the Apple Daily, It is also its founder who is targeted: Jimmy Lai, proven and assumed public enemy of the Chinese Communist Party, remanded in December 2020, sentenced since, and awaiting several other trials.

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