U.S. lawmakers push for Congressional Gold Medal for Apple Daily employees in Hong Kong against Beijing’s crackdown

Republicans in the U.S. Congress have introduced a bill that would give a “Congressional Gold Medal” to all Apple Daily staffers as a response to Beijing’s crackdown on press freedom in Hong Kong. Members of Congress from both parties have expressed their condemnation and outrage over the forced suspension of Hong Kong’s Apple Daily on Thursday (June 24) after the publication of its last edition under Beijing’s crackdown, saying “this is watching freedom and democracy being eroded by an evil Marxist regime.

Republican U.S. Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE) of Nebraska introduced a new bill on the same day that Apple Daily sold its last issue in Hong Kong, which would award the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest honor bestowed by Congress on a foreign leader, to Apple. The Congressional Gold Medal, the highest honor bestowed by the U.S. Congress on a foreign leader, will be awarded to all Apple Daily employees for their courage and determination to fight Communist tyranny in China.

“All the people who work for Apple Daily are heroes. Let’s figure out why this is their last issue: because they defend free thought and speech, and that scares the Chinese Communist Party,” Sen. Sasse said in a written statement.

“They bravely confronted the kangaroo courts (i.e., unjust courts) and told the truth. The Apple Daily reporters revealed that President Xi is actually afraid of those he is trying to silence.”

Rep. Sasse said the free world owes a debt of gratitude to the Apple Daily staff, “and the least we can do is give them a ‘Congressional Gold Medal.

Originally awarded only to U.S. military leaders, the Congressional Gold Medal has become the highest honor foreign leaders can receive from the U.S. Congress and is considered the highest civilian honor in the United States, along with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

On January 17, the National Security Division of the Hong Kong Police Force arrested Five people, including One Media Group CEO Cheung Kin-hong, Chief Operating Officer Chow Tat-kuen, Apple Daily Editor-in-Chief Lo Wai-kwong, Vice President Chan Pui-man, and former Apple News Platform Director Cheung Chi-wai, for violating Hong Kong’s version of the National Security Law. This was the second time that the Hong Kong police conducted a large-scale search of the newspaper within a year of the implementation of the Hong Kong version of the “National Security Law”.

On the same day, the Hong Kong government further froze the assets of Apple Daily and three other related companies, totaling HK$18 million (about US$2.32 million), and ordered banks to freeze all financial transactions with the three companies, which was tantamount to completely cutting off Apple Daily’s financial resources and forcing Apple Daily to cease operations.

The Hong Kong government’s actions did not stop there. Apple Daily was scheduled to publish its last issue on Saturday (June 26), but police arrested its chief writer, whose pen name is Li Ping, again on Wednesday on suspicion of violating national security laws.

With funds frozen and executives arrested, Apple Daily’s management decided to say goodbye two days early and publish the last edition of the newspaper on June 24. Thursday’s issue of Apple Daily’s “Out of Print” had a record circulation of 1 million copies, 800,000 more than the usual print run, but it sold out within hours. Hong Kong Apple Daily has also become the first media outlet to be shut down under the “National Security Law”.

The police and government’s efforts to kill Apple Daily over the past few days prompted the U.S. Congress to condemn the crackdown on press freedom in Hong Kong by the Beijing authorities. A number of lawmakers argued that Hong Kong has become Mainland China-oriented and that “Hong Kong is no longer a self-governing Hong Kong.

“They (Beijing) are now arresting people, and they’re threatening those banks, freezing the accounts of news organizations, and their chief executives could go to jail if they continue to deal (with those organizations). So this (result) is not surprising, it’s part of their ongoing (crackdown). Hong Kong is no longer a self-governing Hong Kong, it’s a place that is completely ruled by the Chinese Communist Party,” Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), a Republican U.S. senator who is a frequent voice for freedom and democracy activism in Hong Kong, told the Voice of America.

Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO), a Republican U.S. senator who visited Hong Kong in 2019 during the city’s anti-China campaign, also told VOA that Apple Daily’s blowing out of the lights is not just damaging to Hong Kong’s freedom, but to one media outlet.

Hawley said, “This is not just a chilling effect on the media, this is the kind of suppression [of media freedom] that is prohibited by our First Constitutional Amendment. Now this is a deliberate effort to destroy the freedom of the press, I mean, it’s not just locking down one viewpoint, it’s destroying the entire freedom of the press, and I was in Hong Kong a year ago, and Hong Kong was moving toward a police state, and now it is (a police state).”

Despite the deep political divide between Washington and the opposition, a high degree of bipartisan unity and consensus has always been achieved on issues such as solidarity with Hong Kong and China’s human rights abuses.

Bipartisan members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee have pointed out that the Hong Kong Apple Daily can be seen as a symbol of the last free media in Hong Kong. Apple Daily’s entrance into history also means that Hong Kong will no longer enjoy freedom of the press from now on.

“They (Beijing) actually invaded Hong Kong with the National Security Law without firing a single shot. Hong Kong is no longer free, and (Beijing’s) human rights abuses are bad, not just in Hong Kong, but in the Xinjiang Autonomous Region against Uighur Muslims as well,” Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX), the ranking Republican member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said in an interview with the Voice of America.

Rep. Ami Bera (D-CA), the chairman of the committee’s Asia-Pacific panel and a Democrat, also said with concern that this is part of a systematic crackdown by Beijing.

“We’ve seen liberal activists imprisoned, we’ve seen them systematically suppress the identity of Hong Kong people. They’re now starting to crack down on the media and the press, and losing the Apple Daily is a big step in a bad direction,” Rep. Berra said, adding, “Both parties in Congress will continue to send the message that we don’t think it’s in China’s interest and definitely not in the values and principles of the people of Hong Kong.”

A large number of Hong Kong people took to the outside of the Apple Daily building Wednesday night to thank the editorial staff, with some chanting slogans from the anti-Send China campaign and singing social movement songs, after the 26-year-old Hong Kong newspaper was eventually forced to cease publication in defiance of a crackdown by Beijing’s political powers.

“We share the frustration and anger of those Hong Kong people,” Rubio told the Voice of America, adding that he will continue to work for the people of Hong Kong who yearn for freedom and democracy.

“We will continue to support them here and we will do what we can, or at least I will certainly try to support them, and we can call attention to their plight. They have enjoyed freedom and democracy, and now watch those freedoms and democracy slowly and continuously being eroded by the evil Marxist regime. We will continue to be a voice for them.”