Investigations, editor-in-chief in custody, assets frozen: “Apple Daily” is under massive pressure in Hong Kong. Now the publisher announced that the newspaper will be discontinued.
In Hong Kong, the pro-democracy newspaper “Apple Daily” is discontinued. The tabloid was targeted by the authorities for alleged violations of the controversial Hong Kong security law, which was enacted at Beijing’s instigation. The newspaper, founded 26 years ago with a circulation of around 80,000 copies, announced on Wednesday that the last issue would appear on Thursday – two days earlier than initially communicated. The media company thanked readers for their loyal support.
“The freedom of the press in Hong Kong is finally history today,” said the chairwoman of the Bundestag committee for human rights and humanitarian aid, Gyde Jensen (FDP), in response to the announced closure of the newspaper. Jensen called on the EU to impose personal sanctions on those responsible in Hong Kong. The international community must also do everything possible to ensure that journalistic coverage of what is happening in Hong Kong does not stop.
“Dissuasive message to journalists”
The organization Reporters Without Borders, which advocates freedom of the press, was also shocked by the newspaper’s shutdown. “The smashing of this symbol of freedom of the press sends a chilling message to journalists worldwide who refuse to spread the regime’s propaganda in Beijing,” said managing director Christian Mihr. “If the international community does not respond with the greatest determination, it will show President Xi Jinping that he can wipe out press freedom in Hong Kong with total impunity, just as he has almost done in mainland China.”
Several newspaper executives were arrested last week. Editor-in-chief Ryan Law and editor-in-chief Kim-hung have been charged and are now on custody. Police claim there is solid evidence that more than 30 articles published in the Apple Daily aimed to persuade other states to sanction China and Hong Kong. There was talk of a “conspiracy with foreign countries”.
Hong Kong security law aims to crush opposition
The newspaper’s assets were also frozen. The “Apple Daily” parent company Next Digital had warned on Monday that wages would not be paid without the money and operations would have to be stopped. In the past few days, the newspaper has already given up some of its offers. Numerous employees left the company. Shortly before the closure was announced, another journalist from the newspaper was arrested on Wednesday morning.
The Hong Kong Security Act targets the pro-democracy opposition and is directed against activities that Beijing sees as subversive, separatist, terrorist or conspiratorial. From the point of view of critics, it serves to silence the opposition and cement the power of the Communist Party.
Newspaper founder is in custody
The premises of the “Apple Daily” had been searched twice by several hundred police officers since August. Newspaper founder Jimmy Lai was arrested at the same time. The 73-year-old is currently serving a 20-month sentence for inciting unauthorized protests. He is also being investigated for alleged violations of the security law that Beijing introduced a year ago in response to ongoing mass demonstrations for more democracy in the Chinese Special Administrative Region.
Dozens of people arrested in Hong Kong are still to stand trial on charges under the security law, which is as vague as it is far-reaching. Quite a number of Hong Kong activists have fled to other countries for fear of prosecution.
Since July 1, 1997, the former British crown colony has belonged to China again and is supposed to be governed independently according to the principle of “one country, two systems”. The seven million Hong Kong residents were also promised at that time that they would be able to enjoy “a high degree of autonomy” and many political freedoms for 50 years until 2047. Since the Security Act was passed, many have only spoken of “one country, one system”.