The arrest comes days after Apple Daily was forced to close after authorities froze its assets, crippling its ability to conduct business or pay staff.

Hong Kong-based Apple Daily allegedly supported sanctions against China, June 24, 2021.
Hong Kong-based Apple Daily allegedly supported sanctions against China, June 24, 2021. (AP)

Hong Kong police arrested the lead opinion writer of Apple Daily on national security grounds as he tried to fly out of the city, local media have reported, days after the Beijing-critical newspaper was forced to shut down.

Apple Daily, an unapologetic backer of Hong Kong's anti-China-rule movement, put out its last edition on Thursday after its top leadership was arrested and its assets frozen under a national security law China imposed on Hong Kong last year.

Fung Wai-kong, managing editor and chief opinion writer for the paper's English website, on Sunday became the seventh senior Apple Daily figure detained under the law.

Hong Kong police confirmed the arrest of a 57-year-old man at the airport for "conspiring to collude with foreign countries or foreign forces to endanger national security".

They did not name Fung, who wrote under the penname Lo Fung, but local media reported that he has been detained for investigation.

Fung's arrest also comes as online news outlet Stand News, also critical of China, said in a statement that it would remove commentaries published on its site before June and halt its fundraising efforts because of concerns over the sweeping national security law.

The measures were taken to protect the news outlet's supporters, writers and editorial staffers in the “literary inquisition” of Hong Kong, Stand News said in a statement.

Despite the precautionary measures taken, Stand News pledged to keep reporting the news.

READ MORE: Hong Kong's last anti-China paperApple Daily sells out final edition

Shuttered opposition outlet

The prosecution of Apple Daily was sparked by articles and columns that allegedly supported international sanctions against China, a view now deemed illegal under the security law.

In the last two weeks, police have raided the Apple Daily newsroom, seized computers and servers, and arrested five senior executives.

Jimmy Lai, Apple Daily's owner and an outspoken critic of the Chinese government, is currently in jail for attending a pro-democracy demonstration and also faces national security charges.

Apple Daily was forced to close after authorities froze its assets, crippling its ability to conduct business or pay staff.

READ MORE: Hong Kong begins first trial under national security law with no jury

Its sudden death was the latest blow to Hong Kong's freedoms, deepening unease over whether the city can remain a media hub.

In a statement on Monday, the Hong Kong Journalists Association said recent events including the targeting of Apple Daily have almost "completely ruined the freedom of press" in the city.

“The HKJA reiterates that freedom of speech and freedom of the press are core values of Hong Kong," it said in a statement. 

"If even the writing of the literati cannot be tolerated, it will be difficult for Hong Kong to be regarded as an international city.”

China imposed its security law on Hong Kong last June after the city was convulsed by huge and often violent anti-Beijing-rule protests in 2019.

Nearly 60 people have now been charged under the law, including some of the city's best-known democracy activists.

Source: AFP