Hong Kong police used a sweeping national security law against a pro-democracy newspaper for the first time Thursday, arresting five editors and executives on charges of collusion with foreign powers. Police said they had strong evidence that more than 30 articles published by Apple Daily played a "crucial part" in a conspiracy with foreign countries to impose sanctions against China and Hong Kong in response to a crackdown on civil liberties, the AP reports. Apple Daily has often criticized the Chinese and Hong Kong governments for tightening control over the city and walking back on promises by Beijing that the territory could retain its freedoms when it was handed over from Britain in 1997. The BBC reports that around 500 officers raided the newspaper's offices.
Apple Daily founder Jimmy Lai is currently serving a 20-month prison sentence for his role in unauthorized assemblies in 2019. The government said a warrant was obtained to look for evidence of a suspected violation of the national security law. Those arrested included Apple Daily’s chief editor Ryan Law, Next Digital CEO Cheung Kim-hung, the publisher's chief operating officer, and two other editors, according to local media. Hong Kong Security Minister John Lee warned people to keep a distance from those who are under investigation as they are not “normal journalists." "You should not collude with these perpetrators, do not be in cahoots with them, otherwise you will pay a hefty price," Lee said. Hong Kong Journalists Association chairman Chris Yeung said the arrests and raid could create a chilling effect on society.
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