UN Hong Kong newspaper executive on trial for national security offences had his bail denied in part because of comments made by Dominic Raab after his arrest, which prosecutors cited as evidence of a “close association” with foreign political groups.
Il ruling handed down on 5 November against Cheung Kim-hung, the former chief executive of Apple Daily’s parent company Next Digital Media, also cited the US awarding of a congressional medal to Cheung and his colleagues, and a statement by the US state department.
Cheung is facing charges of conspiracy to commit foreign collusion alongside the company’s founder Jimmy Lai, and editor-in-chief Ryan Law Wai-kwong. Convictions for national security crimes “of a grave nature” attract sentences of 10 years to life in prison. Corporate entities Apple Daily Limited, Apple Daily Printing Limited and AD Internet Limited, are also on trial.
The defendants were arrested during a police raid on the Apple Daily newsroom and executives’ homes in June. They are accused of conspiring to use the outlet to collude with foreign entities and seek sanctions, blockades, or other hostile activities against the Hong Kong and Chinese governments, endangering national security.
In denying bail, Judge Jose D’Almada Remedios cited prosecutors’ claims that Cheung had “a close association with the USA and foreign political groups as evidenced by their prompt reactions condemning law enforcement actions against the applicant and the condemnation of [the national security law] and enforcement actions against Apple Daily”.
The ruling quoted comments made by Raab, the UK foreign secretary, in the aftermath of Apple Daily’s forced closure and the arrest of the executives. Raab had said the paper’s closure was a “tool to curtail freedoms and punish dissent – rather than keep public order”.
It also cited a US state department dichiarazione calling the use of the national security law to suppress journalism a “serious and negative step” that undermined Hong Kong’s autonomy and the rights and freedoms of residents.
Raab and the state department were among numerous international government figures and organisations as well as legal and human rights groups to have criticised Hong Kong’s crackdown on journalism and Apple Daily in particular. The paper, run by Lai, had become a vocal supporter of the pro-democracy movement and strident critic of Beijing and the Carrie Lam-led Hong Kong government and the city’s police force.
In his reasons, Remedios also cited prosecutor claims that Cheung maintained business connections to Apple Daily in Taiwan, which they said “posted articles for making unfounded allegations against the HKSAR government and the Hong Kong police repeatedly”.
The national security law reverses the onus of proof regarding bail, requiring defendants to convince the judge they would not “continue to commit acts endangering national security” if released.
Remedios found he was “not satisfied that there were sufficient grounds for believing that [Cheung] will not continue to commit acts endangering national security if bail is granted to him”.
There has been no trial or legal finding of such alleged acts being committed.