The imminent closure of the 26-year-old Apple Daily this week has sparked strong international reaction, with disappointment and concern over the loss of press freedom in Hong Kong.
British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said in a statement Wednesday (June 23) that “the forced suspension of Apple Daily by the Hong Kong authorities is a chilling blow to freedom of expression in Hong Kong. Raab stressed that “the powers under the National Security Law are clearly being used as a tool to restrict freedom and punish dissent, rather than to maintain public order”.
Asked Wednesday (June 23) to comment on the imminent forced closure of Hong Kong’s Apple Daily, French government spokesman Gabriel Attal told reporters that “France believes in freedom of the press and pluralism.
A statement issued by an EU spokesman said the suspension of Hong Kong’s Apple Daily clearly shows how the state security laws imposed on Hong Kong by Beijing are being used to eliminate press freedom and freedom of expression. “The suspension of Apple Daily also seriously harms press freedom and pluralism, both of which are essential to any open and free society.” “The erosion of press freedom is harmful to Hong Kong’s aspirations to become an international business hub,” the statement said.
Yamini Mishra, Amnesty International’s Asia Pacific director, said in a statement that “the forced suspension of the Hong Kong Apple Daily is the darkest day in the recent history of press freedom in Hong Kong,” and that the government’s move to shut down the newspaper for publishing articles critical of the government is also an an unacceptable attack. Mishra also said that the arrest of Apple Daily executives, the seizure of press materials and the freezing of newspaper assets sent shivers down the spines of all media operating in Hong Kong. Equally alarming is the fact that the news available to Hong Kong readers is now effectively regulated by the government, just as it is for the people of mainland China. Mishra emphasized that “the authorities’ use of the National Security Law for repression profoundly reveals the oppressive nature of the law.”
We call on the government to deliver on its promise to defend press freedom so that journalists can serve Hong Kong without fear in their hearts,” said Ronald Chan, vice chairman of the Hong Kong Journalists Association. Ronald Chan pointed out, “We would be very worried if there were consequences for writing articles. I worry that this will make the community feel, at least I feel this way now, that people will be thrown in jail for the articles they write.” This will lead to serious concerns about freedom of expression in Hong Kong.
Barbara Trionfi, executive director of the Zurich-based International Press Institute, issued a statement condemning Beijing authorities for silencing a major Hong Kong media outlet. “This is a violation of the right of the people of Hong Kong to an independent press and a new step in the elimination of press freedom in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region,” Trionfi said. Trionfee said that just one year after the legislation of the Hong Kong SAR’s national security law, the fears of its initial critics have come true and “the national security law has become a ready-made tool to suppress independent journalism.”
Hong Kong residents also expressed strong dissatisfaction with the Apple Daily’s suspension of publication. A 55-year-old man named Johnny said, “If the Apple Daily can’t exist, then freedom of the press doesn’t exist either. If such a strong news organization is silenced, I think other news organizations will be horrified.”
Another woman named Maria, 39, said, “I feel like a rainy day, I’m sad because this is a newspaper I’ve been reading since I was young.”
The National Security Division of the Hong Kong police arrested five executives of Next Media and Apple Daily last Thursday (June 17) on suspicion of “conspiracy to collaborate with foreign countries or forces outside the country to endanger national security” and froze the assets of the three companies in question for a total of HK$18 million (about $2.32 million), putting Apple Daily’s operations in immediate jeopardy. The company’s operations were immediately thrown into difficulties.
According to several media reports, the pro-democracy stance of Hong Kong’s Apple Daily will publish its last edition of the newspaper this Thursday (June 24). Currently, Apple 9:30 News has ceased broadcasting, and both Apple Daily English and Apple Finance have ceased operations.
Next Media Group and Apple Daily founder Lai Chi-ying is not only facing charges of allegedly violating national security laws, but has also been serving time in jail on other criminal charges.