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Apple Daily increases print run to half a million copies as Hong Kongers queue to buy paper after raid

·4-min read
Apple Daily increases print run to half a million copies as Hong Kongers queue to buy paper after raid
Readers queue up to buy Apple Daily yesterday (AP)
Readers queue up to buy Apple Daily yesterday (AP)

Hong Kong’s Apple Daily increased its print run more than six-fold to satisfy demand on Friday after police raided the pro-democracy newspaper and arrested five executives.

It printed 500,000 copies, compared with 80,000 on Thursday. Apple Daily said that Hong Kongers queued up at stands from midnight.

The front page carried photos of the five executives who were arrested on Thursday. The Hong Kong police also took dozens of computers, hard-drives and journalists’ notebooks from the newsroom.

Police claimed dozens of reports dating back to 2019 have potentially violated the National Security Law.

They charged two of the five executives, identified by Apple Daily as editor-in-chief Ryan Law and CEO Cheung Kim-Hung, with collusion with a foreign country.

The newspaper said that the other three remain under investigation.

Police also said they would prosecute three companies related to Apple Daily for the same offence after freezing HK$18m (£1.65m) of assets, according to Reuters.

It was the second time the police have raided the paper’s headquarters since August last year. Media tycoon Jimmy Lai, a pro-democracy activist and the paper’s founder, is serving jail for attending illegal assemblies.

Despite the print run, Apple Daily said newsstands still sold out. The paper said some people bought several copies to show support.

A restaurant owner, who bought 300 copies to distribute to customers, said it was “for freedom”.

Resident Lisa Cheung said: “There are lots of injustices in Hong Kong already. I think there are a lot of things we cannot do any more.

“Buying a copy is all we can do. When the law cannot protect Hong Kong people any more, we are only left to do what we can.”

Another resident, who only wanted to be identified by his second name, Tsang, said he went to a vendor around midnight and bought a few copies.

He told Singapore channel CNA: “You never know when this newspaper will die. As Hong Kongers, we need to preserve the history. Hang in there as long as we can. Although the road is rough, we still need to walk it, as there's no other road.”

The arrests have been widely condemned by Western governments and rights groups and have also raised fresh concerns over media freedom in Hong Kong.

The UN human rights chief spokesperson, Rupert Colville, said the raid, “sends a further chilling message for press freedom”.

“We call on Hong Kong authorities to respect their obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, in line with the Basic Law, in particular freedom of expression, freedom of peaceful assembly and association and the right to participate in public affairs,” he wrote.

The European Union and the UK said the incident showed the National Security Law was being used to stifle media freedom and freedom of expression.

Foreign secretary Dominic Raab wrote in a tweet that the raid and arrests show, “Beijing is using the National Security Law to target dissenting voices, not tackle public security”.

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He added: “Freedom of the press is one of the rights China promised to protect in the Joint Declaration and should be respected.”

When Hong Kong was handed over to China in 1997, Beijing had promised that the territory could retain its freedoms for 50 years.

The US called for the immediate release of the newspaper executives. State department spokesperson Ned Price said the US was, “deeply concerned by Hong Kong authorities’ selective use of the National Security Law to arbitrarily target independent media organisations”.

He added: “The charges of ‘collusion with a foreign country or with external elements to endanger national security’ appear to be entirely politically motivated.”

Hong Kong’s secretary of security, John Lee, said those arrested had used journalism as means to threaten national security. He also warned other journalists to distance themselves from the Apple Daily executives.

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