National security police in Hong Kong have arrested a former senior editor and two other employees of the Apple Daily, the now-defunct pro-democracy newspaper that was raided by authorities and forced to close last month.
Former executive editor-in-chief Lam Man-chung was detained by authorities Wednesday under suspicion of "collusion with foreign forces" under the territory's new national security law, the South China Morning Post reported.
Two other employees, Chan Pui-man, former associate publisher of the paper, and ex-senior editorial writer Fung Wai-kong, were also detained by authorities Wednesday on similar allegations. The new arrests bring the total number of former Apple Daily employees detained since last month to at least eight.
The arrests follow the enactment of a Beijing-imposed national security law intended to quash pro-democracy forces in the once autonomous city. The wide-ranging law outlaws "foreign interference" and criminalizes any form of secession from or subversion of the power and authority of the central government as well as any collusion with external forces.
Pro-democracy activists in the city have warned that the new law means "the end of Hong Kong" and "the end of one country, two systems." In response to its enactment, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo formally declared last year that Hong Kong was no longer autonomous from China.
In June, authorities in Hong Kong raided the offices of Apple Daily arresting five company executives and freezing millions of dollars in assets, forcing the popular newspaper's closure. The paper sold roughly 1 million copies of its last physical issue.
Apple Daily reported on the massive pro-democracy protests that rocked the city starting in 2019 and had become a leading critic of Beijing and Hong Kong leadership.
Following Wednesday's arrests, Secretary for Security Chris Tang Ping-keung stated that police would continue pursuing anyone suspected of committing an offense, regardless of profession.
"We have the obligation to arrest and prosecute them if they have violated the law," he said, according to the South China Morning Post. "I will not comment further as the case still needs further investigation."
The Hong Kong Journalists Association, on the other hand, reportedly expressed shock and dismay at the arrests, heralding freedom of the press as the "cornerstone of an international city."
"The association urges the government not to keep arresting journalists in the name of national security in a bid to create white terror in the field," it added.