Press freedom in Hong Kong received another devastating blow when authorities stormed the offices of the popular newspaper Apple Daily and arrested two senior executives and three top editors.
Dozens of hard drives were seized in the raid and the paper’s financial accounts were frozen. Apple Daily was founded by pro-democracy activist Jimmy Lai, who is currently serving multiple jail sentences because of his participation in anti-government protests that swept Hong Kong in 2019.
The raid occurred on June 17 under the auspices of a broad national security law that was imposed last year by Beijing. Authorities said the charges being investigated include “collusion with a foreign country or with external elements to endanger national security.”
Exchanging views with foreigners in journalism should never be a crime.”U.S. State Department Spokesperson Ned Price
The United States strongly condemned the arrests. At a press briefing, State Department Spokesperson Ned Price said, “We are deeply concerned by Hong Kong authorities’ selective use of the national security law to arbitrarily target independent media organizations. The charges…appear to be entirely politically motivated. We deplore the reported assertion by a Hong Kong police official that articles published in Apple Daily are evidence of what they call the, quote, “conspiracy to collude with foreign forces.” As we all know, exchanging views with foreigners in journalism should never be a crime.”
Spokesperson Price said the U.S. is concerned over “increased efforts by authorities to wield the national security law as a tool to suppress independent media, to silence dissenting views, and to stifle freedom of expression. These actions undermine Beijing’s obligations, their own obligations under the Sino-British Joint Declaration, which is a binding international agreement, to uphold Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy and protected rights and freedoms.
“We call on authorities to stop targeting the independent and free media,” declared Mr. Price. “Efforts to stifle media freedom and to restrict the free flow of information not only undermine Hong Kong’s democratic institutions but they also hurt Hong Kong’s credibility and viability as an international hub.”