Tuesday, 28 September, 2021

Hong Kong’s pro-democracy paper Apple Daily will close

Police officers raid the Apple Daily office on June 17 in Hong Kong Pro-democracy Hong Kong newspaper Apple Daily closing down
Ginger Lawrence | 23 June, 2021, 14:49

Authorities froze on Thursday the equivalent of $2.3 million from three related companies and arrested five Apple Daily executives, seizing dozens of computers and hard drives from its newsroom. On Wednesday, police arrested a columnist on suspicion of conspiring to collude with a foreign country or foreign forces.

The paper's publisher, Next Digital, said in a statement the decision to close the newspaper, which employs about 600 journalists, was taken "due to the current circumstances prevailing in Hong Kong".

But the national security law, which was penned in Beijing and imposed on Hong Kong a year ago after huge and often violent democracy protests, allows for cases to be tried by three specially selected judges.

Apple Daily openly supported antigovernment protests that rocked the city for months in 2019, and the paper has fiercely criticized China's ruling Communist Party.

But she said, "Don't try to underplay the significance of breaching the national security law, and don't try to beautify these acts of endangering national security".

The 73-year-old Lai has been jailed since December and is facing multiple charges, including participating in an illegal demonstration and violating the national security law. The city's legislature no longer includes opposition members, schools have revamped teaching materials and fired teachers critical of China, and art exhibits and cinemas are censoring politically sensitive content.

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A man accused of driving a motorcycle into police officers while carrying a Hong Kong protest flag has become the first person to stand trial under the national security law implemented previous year as China's central government tightened control over the city.

Chinese and Hong Kong officials have said the media must abide by the law, and that press freedom can not be used as a "shield" for illegal activities.

Its possible closure would herald the biggest blow to press freedom in the city since Beijing imposed a national-security law in June 2020 to crush dissent in the Chinese territory.

The police operation against Apple Daily has drawn criticism from the US and Britain, which say Hong Kong and Chinese authorities are targeting the city's promised freedoms. "Under the national security law, the red line is hidden and invisible".

Critics, including many western nations, say China has broken its "One country, two systems" promise that Hong Kong could maintain key freedoms after its handover from Britain.