IBAHRI condemns arrests and raid on Apple Daily newspaper in Hong Kong

Monday 21 June 2021

Image credit: Yu Chun Christopher Wong / Shutterstock.com (right)

The International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) unequivocally condemns the recent arrests of the editor-in-chief and four directors of Hong Kong’s Apple Daily newspaper under the controversial National Security Law. This development is the latest in a long line of targeted arrests designed to silence critical voices and bring an unlawful end to the constitutional principle of ‘One Country, Two Systems’. The United Kingdom’s Foreign Secretary the Rt Hon Dominic Raab MP, commented, ‘Freedom of the press is one of the rights China promised to protect in the Joint Declaration and should be respected.’ The IBAHRI calls on the UK Government and the European Union to go further in their condemnation and impose targeted sanctions on those ordering the raids.

IBAHRI Co-chair and Immediate Past Secretary General of the Swedish Bar Association, Anne Ramberg Dr Jur hc, commented: ‘These arrests are deeply troubling in their own right, but also as a sign of what may be to come. If the authorities manage to shut down the Apple Daily, as is clearly their intention, the future of Hong Kong appears bleak. IBAHRI calls on the United Kingdom to commit to upholding the Sino-British Joint Declaration, under which citizens of Hong Kong remain entitled to greater legal protection. Additionally, we urge the international community to take more effective action in response to such blatant disregard for human rights.’

The offices of the newspaper were raided by 500 police officers in the government’s latest attempt to stifle free speech and pro-democracy voices in Hong Kong, with journalists’ materials and equipment rifled and 38 computers seized. HK$18 million (US$2.3 million) in assets were frozen to cripple the viability of the organisation. The Editor-in-chief, Ryan Law; Chief Executive Officer, Cheung Kim-hung; Chief Operating Officer, Chow Tat-kuen; Deputy Chief Editor, Chan Puiman; and Chief Executive Editor, Cheung Chi-wai were all arrested in their homes for allegedly colluding with a foreign country or with external elements to endanger national security. This is believed to be the first time Hong Kong journalists have been arrested on suspicion of violating the National Security Law. The Hong Kong security chief, John Lee, said that those arrested were not ‘normal journalists’ in an effort to undermine their legitimacy and to justify the indefensible act of stifling media freedom.

IBAHRI Director, Baroness Helena Kennedy QC stated: ‘The recent arrests at the Apple Daily in Hong Kong are appalling but unfortunately not surprising. The National Security Law has been continually wielded as a tool to smother the pro-democracy movement and allow for the wholesale erosion of human rights in Hong Kong. Because without free speech and the free exchange of information and ideas, repression becomes inevitable, as dissent is the most powerful threat to a government which seeks to serve only itself and not its people.’

The Apple Daily was previously raided in August 2020, leading to the arrests of 10 people, including owner Jimmy Lai, one of Hong Kong’s most prominent pro-democracy voices. These latest arrests and the freezing of assets demonstrates that authorities will not stop until the newspaper is silenced. This not only violates those individuals’ rights to free speech and due process, but it is also a violation of rights of the entire population, which is entitled to receive information and all types of ideas as part of a democratic society.


Notes to the Editor

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  2. The International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI), established in 1995 under Founding Honorary President Nelson Mandela, is an autonomous and financially independent entity, working to promote, protect and enforce human rights under a just rule of law, and to preserve the independence of the judiciary and the legal profession worldwide.
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  4. The International Bar Association (IBA), the global voice of the legal profession, is the foremost organisation for international legal practitioners, bar associations and law societies. Established in 1947, shortly after the creation of the United Nations, it was born out of the conviction that an organisation made up of the world's bar associations could contribute to global stability and peace through the administration of justice.

    The IBA acts as a connector, enabler, and influencer, for the administration of justice, fair practice, and accountability worldwide. The IBA has collaborated on a broad range of ground-breaking, international projects with the United Nations, the European Parliament, the Council of Europe, The Commonwealth, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the World Trade Organization, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, among others.

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