On Thursday, October 15, 14 police officials visited Lai’s Kwung Tong office and confiscated documents, departing before lawyers had time to arrive. Lai, the founder of media institution Next Digital, which manages pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily, regularly criticizes the Hong Kong government and China’s authoritarian rule and was arrested under the new national security law in August.
The raid came hours beforeLai’s court appearance, to face illegal assembly charges related to his attendance of a candlelight vigil on June 4, marking the anniversary of China’s Tiananmen Square crackdown in 1989. “It seems that they are looking for every possible reason to charge me… The police didn’t even wait for the lawyer to come before they took things away, so that’s not rule of law,” said Lai.
Lai was arrested on August 10 on suspicion of colluding with foreign forces under the Beijing-imposed national security law. The Apple Daily office was also raided. He was also arrested on June 11 on incitement charges relating to the Tiananmen commemoration vigil. On April 18, he was arrested and charged for his role in the unlawful assembly during the Hong Kong protests in 2019.
In May, police revealed they were investigating Apple Daily for alleged fraud and land-lease violations. The Hong Kong Police Force issued a statement acknowledging that National Security Department officials had searched a Kwun Tong office in relation to arrests made in August, seizing some “relevant exhibits” for investigation.
Hong Kong’s national security law, passed in June this year, criminalises any act of secession, subversion, terrorism or collusion and is criticised for curtailing rights to freedom of speech and protest.
The IFJ said: “The National Security Law critically restricts media freedom and political activism in Hong Kong. The IFJ urges Hong Kong police to release Lai and cease biased investigation towards pro-democracy media institutions.”