This arrest is the latest blow against the local press in Hong Kong, whose freedom has been considerably eroded since Beijing regained control of the territory.

Allan Au, a 54-year-old journalist and journalism professor, was arrested at dawn on Monday by police officers in charge of national security in Hong Kong, several local media reported.

A high-ranking police source confirmed to AFP this arrest for "conspiracy for a seditious publication".

Mr. Au is a former columnist for the pro-democracy news site Stand News, forced to close at the end of December after being subjected to a series of searches and the arrest of seven people for “seditious publication”.

Two journalists from Stand News have already been charged with "sedition".

National security charges have also been filed against Jimmy Lai, a media magnate, and six former executives of his pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily, which was also forced to close last year.

Shortly after Stand News closed, Mr Au began writing "good morning" every morning on Facebook to ensure he was safe.

This columnist notably published in 2017 a book on censorship in Hong Kong.

For more than ten years, he was responsible for a current affairs program on the Hong Kong public broadcaster RTHK.

Mr. Hau was fired last year by the channel after a reshuffling of its programs by the authorities who wanted the media, hitherto editorially independent, to follow the official line.

The offense of "sedition" is punishable by two years in prison under a law dating from 1938.

Initially promulgated by the British colonial power to repress supporters of Communist China, this text had fallen into disuse.

In 1997, when Hong Kong returned to China, it had not been used for decades.

But he was exhumed recently by city authorities as part of a crackdown on the pro-democracy movement, in addition to a draconian new national security law imposed in 2020 by Beijing.

© 2022 AFP