Officials arrested Apple Daily’s top executives under the city’s contentious national security statute, causing the publication to shut down and its assets to be frozen. Jimmy Lai, a media entrepreneur, was already serving time for many offences when he purchased the company.
Hong Kong Pro-Democracy Media Buckles Under China Pressure
Just hours before the arrests were made, the prominent pro-democracy news outlet Stand News announced it was suspending editorial pieces out of concern of a crackdown.
To this day, Stand News remains one of the city’s few remaining overtly pro-democratic magazines. During the pro-democracy protests of 2019, it gained notoriety together with a small number of other relatively young online news portals.
A promise of press freedom was made to the citizens of Hong Kong by the British before they handed the city back to the Chinese.
Veterans of the sector, however, claim that this is being flagrantly disregarded in accordance with the national security law, which will be implemented in June 2020 in reaction to years of escalating pro-democracy rallies. Secession, subversion, and coordination with foreign forces are all outlawed by the contentious statute, which carries a maximum term of life in prison for those convicted.
“The arrests reinforced the dread existing among journalists after the implementation of the national security law,” he noted. The media climate is more tense now that Apple Daily has shut down.
Apple Daily was the first media organisation to fall victim to the government’s crackdown on protesters and activists, which has been increasingly aggressive in recent months.
Prior to its termination in early June, the tabloid/pro-democracy hybrid had been the city’s most prominent voice of protest.
Several articles in the daily, according to the police, violated national security laws by, for example, advocating sanctions against Hong Kong or the mainland China.
Similarly to Apple Daily’s editors and owner Jimmy Lai, the journalist arrested on Sunday is expected to face charges under the national security statute, according to media sources.
A clear goal of China’s leadership is to send a message to the country’s media that critical reporting would be met with severe consequences if it is published.
The Hong Kong Journalists’ Association has demanded an explanation from police following the most recent arrest.