HONG KONG, June 18 (Reuters) – Hong Kong pro-democracy tabloid Apple Daily increased its circulation on Friday after 500 police raided its newsroom the day before and seized reporting materials as part of an investigation into whether any articles threatened China’s national security.
Police arrested five executives, including the editor of Apple Daily, at dawn on Thursday and froze HK $ 18 million ($ 2.32 million) in assets held by three companies linked to the newspaper before cordon off the building.
It was the second time police raided the newsroom after the arrest last year of media mogul Jimmy Lai, a pro-democracy activist and staunch Beijing critic, owner of Next Digital. 0282.HK, which publishes Apple Daily.
The newspaper increased the number of copies printed on Friday to 500,000 from 80,000 on Thursday, anticipating strong demand from the city’s readers of 7.5 million. A similar number was printed after Lai’s arrest in August 2020.
One reader, Tsang, who only gave his last name due to the sensitivity of the matter, went to a newsstand around midnight to buy two or three copies of the newspaper as it went out of the press.
“You never know when this newspaper will die,” Tsang said. “As Hong Kong people, we have to preserve history. Hang on as long as possible. Although the road is rough, we still have to walk it, because there is no other road.”
The Apple Daily front page reported the raid, claiming police seized 44 hard drives as evidence.
It was the first case in which authorities cited press reports as potentially violating the National Security Law, imposed by Beijing in 2020 after nearly a year of mass pro-democracy protests.
The European Union and Britain said the raid showed China was using the law to quell dissent rather than to deal with public safety. The United States has said that the “selective” use of the law “arbitrarily” targets independent media.
In a statement released Thursday, the Next Media staff union pledged to continue reporting.
“As difficult as the current circumstances may be, we will continue our work with the aim of publishing our articles normally,” he said.
(Reporting by Jessie Pang and Donny Kwok; written by Marius Zaharia. Editing by Gerry Doyle)
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