Chinese authorities on Wednesday forced the closure of a popular Hong Kong pro-democracy newspaper and arrested its lead editorial writer.
Apple Daily, a publication backed by imprisoned millionaire and Hong Kong democracy activist Jimmy Lai, folded following an extended financial and legal pressure campaign from the Chinese Communist Party. The newspaper was known for its anti-Beijing coverage. Police also arrested journalist Yeung Ching-kee, who under the pen name Li Ping wrote op-eds eviscerating the Chinese government for constricting press freedoms after taking over Hong Kong in 2020. Yeung was charged with conspiracy to collude with foreign governments.
The closure comes less than a week after hundreds of police officers stormed the paper's newsroom, froze its funds, and arrested five of its senior editors, using a controversial national security law once defended in the pages of the New York Times.
Michael Abramowitz, president of the human rights nonprofit Freedom House, said the forced closure was an "unacceptable attack on press freedom" within Hong Kong.
"Treating independent, fact-based journalism as a threat to national security is an unacceptable attack on press freedom and comes amid a wider crackdown on freedom of expression and freedom of assembly in Hong Kong," Abramowitz said. "Democratic nations should not only publicly condemn the Hong Kong authorities’ relentless pace of arrests on dubious national security charges, but back up their statements with coordinated, tangible support for civil and human rights in Hong Kong."
Apple Daily was one of Hong Kong’s last bastions of anti-regime activism. Since the June 2020 release of a national security law backed by the mainland, the Chinese Communist Party has swiftly marched through the city's pro-democracy political and social institutions. Local authorities backed by China sentenced several pro-democracy activists to prison in April. The month before, party officials effectively banned pro-democracy candidates from running for office.