Wed, 30 Sep 2020

Hong Kong's government broadcaster has withdrawn a political podcast from its website after being warned that an interview with exiled democracy activist Nathan Law could be in breach of a draconian national security law imposed on the city by the ruling Chinese Communist Party.

The podcast about the recent decision by Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam to postpone legislative elections by a year, citing coronavirus concerns, was taken down from the Radio Television Hong Kong (RTHK) website out of "caution," the station's news department reported.

Law said the decision seemed to have been taken after unconfirmed reports that he is now on a Hong Kong's police list of overseas suspects under the national security law, which bans secession, subversion, collusion with foreign powers, and terrorism.

"I can only assume that they did this not because of the content of my interview, but because of my identity as a 'wanted suspect' under the national security law," he said.

He said that even wanted suspects have the right to give media interviews, but that there has been no official confirmation of media reports that he is a wanted suspect.

"The question of whether or not I really am wanted by the police hasn't yet been confirmed," Law wrote on his Facebook page on Thursday. "The police have never confirmed those reports."

"I hope that RTHK will take a good look at this decision and uphold the profession of journalism," he said.

An RTHK spokesperson said its management decided to adopt a cautious approach and made an editorial decision to remove the program for the time being.

But the RTHK Programme Staff Union questioned if the public broadcaster had overreacted, saying the police had never confirmed whether the interviewee was indeed on their wanted list, according to an RTHK news report, citing the union as saying that the incident could discourage people from accepting interviews.

Law announced he had moved to the U.K. shortly after the national security law took effect in Hong Kong. Several pro-democracy groups campaigning for greater autonomy for Hong Kong, including Demosisto, which Law founded along with Joshua Wong and Agnes Chow, announced their dissolution around the same time.

A student leader during the 2014 Occupy Central pro-democracy movement, Law became the youngest-ever candidate to win a seat in the Legislative Council (LegCo) in 2016, a seat that was later stripped from him after Beijing ruled his oath of allegiance was invalid.

'Doing the right thing'

Meanwhile, pro-democracy media mogul Jimmy Lai, who is out on bail pending investigation for "fraud" and "collusion with foreign powers," under the new law, thanked his supporters around the world.

"I have been very moved during the past few days," Lai said. "I haven't ever felt this touched or happy before, and I'm 73 years old and have been in Hong Kong for more than 60 of those years."

"I know I am doing the right thing," said Lai, who has vowed not to leave Hong Kong in the face of the national security crackdown imposed on the city by Beijing following months of anti-extradition and pro-democracy protests last year.

He said he felt fortunate throughout his arrest and interrogation at the hands of Hong Kong's newly established national security police division.

"At no point, even when I was sitting there in handcuffs, did I feel sorry for myself or humiliated," Lai said.

Lai's arrest came alongside those of several colleagues at the company he founded, Next Media, and that of pro-democracy activist Agnes Chow, who has been dubbed #TheRealMulan by supporters on social media since images of her being led away in handcuffs made international headlines earlier this week.

All have since been released on bail.

Legal action taken against police

Following a national security police raid on its offices, including the editorial department, on Monday, Lai and his Apple Daily newspaper have launched legal action against the police, demanding the return of documents seized by officers.

They are seeking a court order for the police to hand back journalistic material, information with legal professional privilege, and all other material not covered by the search warrant.

Among the items taken by the police were computers belonging to Lai and his secretary Julie Chan, as well as those of reporters and the company's editorial, finance, and security departments.

The lawsuits claim that correspondence with lawyers and private communication between staff and their family and friends were also beyond the scope of the warrant.

Police claimed at the time of the raid not to have taken any journalistic material.

Reported by Lau Siu-fung for RFA's Cantonese Service and Gao Feng for the Mandarin Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.

Copyright © 1998-2018, RFA. Published with the permission of Radio Free Asia, 2025 M St. NW, Suite 300, Washington DC 20036

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