National Security Act: Apple Daily columnist arrested at airport as he tried to leave Hong Kong
The latest arrest came as the online portal Stand News, popular among the opposition camp, said it would delete most of its comments and end a fundraiser as part of its preventative measures to protect the platform.
Fung was the seventh Apple Daily senior executive to quit in two weeks.
On June 17, National Security Police raided the premises of the tabloid-style newspaper and charged two of the five business executives arrested for their role in publishing more than 30 articles alleged to be part of a conspiracy to attract foreign sanctions. Police also arrested columnist Yeung Ching-kee on Wednesday.
The police operation ultimately prompted the 26-year-old newspaper founded by the media mogul
Chee-ying, currently behind bars on 2019-related illegal assembly charges, closed its doors last Wednesday.
Stand News, meanwhile, revealed his decision in a statement Sunday night, saying it was time to delete most of his comments and stop his fundraising campaign.
“Over the past year, Stand News has insisted not to set no-go zones in its reporting, even though the national security law has changed Hong Kong,” the portal said.
“We will continue to uncover the truth and give bloggers the opportunity to publish their articles. As the “literary inquisition” has already arrived in Hong Kong, we have introduced five points to highlight to protect every supporter, author and editor in order to minimize risks in various aspects. “
One impending measure was to temporarily remove all comments posted on its website by June, he said. The articles would be uploaded again after the newsroom had verified with the authors their preferences and assessed the risks.
The nonprofit portal, which relied on advertising revenue, subscriptions and donations for its funding, will also stop receiving money from existing patrons and subscribers and stop accepting new members. This was a preventative measure to prevent fan money from being wasted if Stand News was put at risk, the company said.
Authorities froze HK $ 18 million (US $ 2.3 million) in assets belonging to three companies affiliated with Apple Daily, a decision that partly contributed to the newspaper’s demise.
Six directors of the parent company of Stand News – including Civic Party lawyer Margaret Ng Ngoi-yee, singer Denise Ho Wan-sze and former head of the Social Services Council Christine Fang Meng-sang – also accepted the suggestions to step down from their posts, according to the statement.
Stand News editor-in-chief Chung Pui-kuen and Tony Tsoi Tung-ho, founder of the late House News website, will remain directors.
The information portal also revealed that all employees who worked for more than six months had their contracts terminated last month and were paid above the legal minimum. Most of the people who stayed were rehired with a new contract no worse than their previous terms, he added.
Stand News, the first Hong Kong media group to deploy protective measures following the force’s operation against Apple Daily, is also committed to maintaining its editorial direction.
Founded in December 2014, following the
movement, Stand News is committed to upholding Hong Kong’s core values, including democracy, human rights, liberty, rule of law and justice, through its platform.
Hong Kong tabloid Apple Daily ceases operations after top executives are arrested, assets freeze
Sympathetic to the cause of the opposition, he gained prominence and popularity during the 2019 anti-government protests as he was active in live rallies and fierce clashes between radical protesters and riot police across the city.
Executive Board member Ronny Tong Ka-wah, a lawyer by profession, said he didn’t think it made any difference whether the articles were deleted or the directors resigned.
“The fact that they removed various items does not make any difference whether the company has committed a crime. It doesn’t really matter that some of the directors have now resigned, ”Tong said.
“What matters is who the directors were at the time the breach was committed by the company.”
There was also no reason for the news industry to panic, he said.
“[The media] knows very well what the law requires… There is no reason to fear prosecution by the police.
But Bruce Lui Ping-kuen, a senior lecturer in journalism at Baptist University, expressed concern that police might act against the online news site in the future, especially after the closure of Apple Daily.
“After Apple Daily, I think the management of Stand News knows they could be next. [They are] the highest risk factor, ”he said.
He said he also believed the lines imposed on journalists to post material against the Chinese Communist Party were blurred and advised reporters to be more careful when handling such materials.
Additional reporting by Rachel Yeo