Hong Kong national security police on Wednesday arrested a former editor at the now-defunct Apple Daily pro-democracy newspaper, weeks after the paper was forced to close after authorities froze its assets.
Lam Man-chung, who was the executive editor-in-chief of Apple Daily, was arrested on suspicion of conspiring to collude with foreign forces to endanger national security, according to the South China Morning Post newspaper, which cited an unnamed source. He was the eighth person from the newspaper to be arrested in recent weeks.
Two other former Apple Daily journalists — associate publisher and deputy chief editor Chan Pui-man and chief editorial writer Fung Wai-kong — were also detained on Wednesday after their bail was revoked, according to local media reports.
Ms Chan was among the five Apple Daily executives and editors arrested on June 17, and Mr Fung was first arrested at the airport late last month while allegedly attempting to leave on a flight to the UK.
Police said that a 51-year-old former editor was arrested on Wednesday in relation to a similar case in June, but did not identify the person arrested.
They also confirmed that they had revoked bail arrangements for a 51-year-old woman and a 57-year-old man who were arrested in June and are detaining them for further investigation.
Hong Kong security minister Chris Tang denied that the arrests would trigger a “white terror” — a term referring to a climate of fear caused by political repression — among journalists.
“Whoever committed an offence will be arrested, disregarding their background, whatever they do, or what are their professions,” he said.
“It doesn’t really matter. If they committed an offence, they will be arrested. And if there is any evidence, they will be prosecuted.”
The Hong Kong Journalists Association criticised the “repeated targeting of journalists” from Apple Daily, stating that it was “shocked and puzzled” by the arrest of Lam since the newspaper had already ceased operations.
The association also asked the government to explain how news and publishing work that has been legally carried out and is protected under the city’s mini-constitution, the Basic Law, could endanger national security.
“Freedom of the press and the freedom to publish are important cornerstones for the success of an international city,” it said on its Facebook page.
In June, police raided the newspaper’s offices, taking away hard drives and laptops as evidence.
The arrests of top executives, editors and journalists at the paper, as well as the freezing of 2.3 million dollars (£1.69 million) worth of assets, led Apply Daily to cease its operations last month. It sold a million copies of its final edition.
Following months of anti-government protests in 2019, Beijing last year imposed a sweeping national security law in Hong Kong which critics say restricts the freedoms promised to the former British colony that are not found on mainland China.
More than 100 pro-democracy supporters have been arrested, and many others fled abroad.