Hong Kong journalist Allan Au was arrested for sedition on April 11. After spending 17 hours in detention, the 54-year-old journalist was released on bail.

Au had hosted a radio program for RTHK, Hong Kong's public broadcaster, until his firing in June 2021. He had also written for the online news outlet Stand News before it closed in the wake of the national security law imposed by mainland China.

'Too much for Beijing's censors'

On Twitter, Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, said that the journalist had been "the mildest of government critics, yet even he was apparently too much for Beijing's censors."

The Committee to Protect Journalists tweeted its demand for the Hong Kong authorities to release the journalist "immediately and unconditionally and stop detaining members of the press." The post contained a link to an article in which the organization's Asia coordinator Steven Butler said: "The arrest of journalist Allan Au Ka-lun shows once again that Hong Kong's claims to have maintained press freedom are rubbish."

Journalist may face two years in prison

Also, on Twitter, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said it "calls for the release of Allan Au, a veteran journalist, and columnist for now-defunct media outlet Stand News who was arrested in Hong Kong today under suspicion of 'conspiracy to publish the seditious publication.'" The post linked to an article that said the journalist could face imprisonment for up to two years if he was found guilty of that crime.

The journalist was released on bail after being held by the police for more than 17 hours, according to Twitter posts from the Hong Kong Free Press (HKFP). Agence France-Presse called him "one of the city's most experienced local columnists."

The news agency recalled that in 2017 he had published a book about censorship in the former British colony titled Freedom Under 20 Shades of Shadow.

The HKFP noted that Au had also worked at the Chinese University of Hong Kong's School of Journalism.

Radio Free Asia (RFA) noted that Au had also been a news producer for TVB and a columnist for the Ming Pao newspaper. RFA also said the journalist had lost his radio show at RTHK in June 2021 as a consequence of the government's increased control over the public broadcaster.

RFA quoted Hong Kong Journalists' Association chairman Ronson Chan as saying he was "very sad" to hear of Au's arrest. Ronson told RFA that Au had been an exemplary journalist who "explained the news in a calm and rational way."

More arrests are possible

The journalist's arrest was noted by Global Times, an English-language Chinese state-affiliated newspaper published in Beijing.

Hong Kong police told the paper that Au had been arrested for breaking Articles 9 and 10 of the city's Crime Ordinance, which outlawed the publishing of seditious materials. The police also told the paper that their ongoing investigation might lead to more arrests.