Apple Daily, the Hong Kong newspaper founded by pro-democracy activist Jimmy Lai, has been forced to close after its offices were raided, several editors and executives were arrested, and its financial assets were frozen by law enforcement last week.
“The forced closure of Apple Daily is the blackest day for media freedom in Hong Kong’s recent history,” Yamini Mishra, the Asia-Pacific regional director for Amnesty International, said of Apple Daily’s forced closure.
Apple Daily was one of the most widely read newspapers in Hong Kong. Until recently, the former British colony returned to Chinese rule in 1997 had enjoyed a level of press freedom that mainland Chinese residents could have only dreamed of.
“Even in the face of advertising boycotts, assaults on its journalists and firebomb attacks, the paper persevered and thrived,” the New York Times stated.
“Apple Daily showed we have a vibrant society, with freedom of expression and freedom of the press,” former Hong Kong pro-democracy lawmaker Emily Lau said of the paper’s impending closure. “It shows that when the Chinese government decides to act, it can be very swift and sometimes exceedingly brutal.”
Apple Daily and its editors and executives have been accused under a recently imposed national security law of conspiring with foreign governments to impose sanctions against the Chinese regime as Beijing reneges on a promise to the British to preserve Hong Kong’s Western-style liberty.
Police also froze the equivalent of $2.3 million in assets, which is the ultimate cause for Apple Daily’s forced closure, Time Magazine notes.
On Wednesday, police also arrested an editorial writer for the paper “on suspicion of conspiring to collude with foreign countries or foreign forces to endanger national security,” as quoted by The Epoch Times.
“We urge the government to fulfil the promise of safeguarding press freedom … to let people working in the news industry serve Hong Kong without fear,” said Ronson Chan, head of the Hong Kong Journalists’ Association, adding, “We will be very worried if there are consequences for writing an article. I’m afraid that it will make society feel, or how I feel now, that people can be put in prison because of what they write. It leads to a huge worry for the city’s freedom of speech.”
In a statement, British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab called the crackdown “a chilling blow to freedom of expression in Hong Kong …. It is crystal clear that the powers under the National Security Law are being used as a tool to curtail freedoms and punish dissent — rather than keep public order.”
Over the last few years, the free world has been able to witness, in real time, what an authoritarian crackdown on free speech looks like.
This is made all the more chilling by the fact that, as the CCP’s police can arrest newsmen and force their outlets to shut down, here in the west we see a more subtle, yet multi-faceted assault on our basic natural rights.
On the one hand, dissident thought and expression is increasingly targeted through alienation and ostracization by corporate information giants like Big Tech and establishment legacy media.
On the other hand, activist policy from the local and federal levels of government have increasingly prioritized “tolerance” over religious freedom while unsettling language from federal law enforcement and intelligence apparatuses justifies concerning encroachments into privacy and free association as being done in the interest of “national security.”
We should be seriously concerned about the CCP’s invasion of Hong Kong’s autonomous self-rule, but that should cause us to be all the more concerned about what we are witnessing here at home. Whether it is by the People’s Republic of China or by our own still-formidable constitutional republic or its corporate proxies, a threat to freedom anywhere is a threat to freedom everywhere.