Responding to the closure of Hong Kong newspaper Apple Daily following the freezing of its assets by national security police and the arrest of managers and staff on charges of “endangering national security”, Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific Regional Director Yamini Mishra said:
“The forced closure of Apple Daily is the blackest day for media freedom in Hong Kong’s recent history. The paper has been effectively banned by the government for publishing articles that criticized it and for reporting on international discussions about Hong Kong. This is an unacceptable attack on freedom of expression.
“The arrests of Apple Daily staff, seizing of journalistic materials and freezing of its assets will send a shiver down the spine of all media outlets operating in Hong Kong. It is also deeply alarming for the readers whose media consumption is now effectively being curbed by the authorities – just as it is for people in mainland China.
“The fact that the authorities are using the national security law to enable this crackdown highlights the deeply repressive nature of the legislation.”
Apple Daily, an outspoken Hong Kong media organization founded by Jimmy Lai in 1995, said on Wednesday that it was ceasing operations.
The announcement followed the arrests of six of the newspaper’s staff and executives in the past week.
Five of the arrests took place on 17 June, when its premises were also raided by 500 police officers who took away computers and documents, including some containing journalistic materials.
According to a Hong Kong Police spokesperson, the newspaper executives were arrested for their role in the publication of more than 30 articles that called on foreign countries to impose sanctions.
All were charged with “colluding with a foreign country or with external elements to endanger national security” under Hong Kong’s National Security Law.
Earlier today, police also arrested Apple Daily’s China Beat editorial writer Yeung Ching-kee (also known as Li Ping) and charged him with “conspiracy to collude with foreign forces”.
Jimmy Lai was arrested and charged under the National Security Law in August 2020 on the same day as a previous police raid on Apple Daily’s offices.
Last week, authorities froze HK$18 million (US$2.32 million) of assets owned by companies linked to Apple Daily – leaving it unable to pay staff and forcing its closure.