Hong Kong citizens have been queuing up to buy pro-democracy Apple Daily in support of press freedom.
It comes a day after police raided its offices and arrested senior staff under national security laws
Hong Kong police charged two executives from the pro-democracy Apple Daily newspaper on Friday using a powerful new security law, a day after the company’s newsroom was raided over articles it had published.
In a short statement, police said a 47-year-old and a 59-year-old were charged with ‘collusion with a foreign country or with external elements to endanger national security’.
Apple Daily said the two charged executives were chief editor Ryan Law and CEO Cheung Kim-hung.
The raid on the paper’s offices – along with the freezing of $2.3 million worth of its assets – marked the first time a sweeping national security law has been used against the media. It was the latest sign of a widening crackdown on civil liberties in the semi-autonomous city, which has long cherished freedoms that don’t exist elsewhere in China.
In a display of support for press freedom, people across the city people bought multiple copies of Apply Daily, some handing them out to businesses to give to customers.
One woman even filled an entire Ikea bag with copies of the publication.
‘A coffee shop in Central giving away free copies of #AppleDaily.
‘They said someone left the copies there,’ photographer Bertha Wang wrote on Twitter.
With anti-government protests silenced, most of the city’s prominent pro-democracy activists in jail and many others fleeing abroad, people snapped up copies at newsstands and in convenience stores.
‘There are lots of injustices in Hong Kong already. I think there are a lot of things we cannot do anymore,’ said resident Lisa Cheung.
‘Buying a copy is all what we can do. When the law cannot protect Hong Kong people anymore, we are only left to do what we can.’
The front page of Friday’s edition splashed images of the five editors and executives led away in handcuffs. Police also confiscated 44 hard drives worth of news material. A quote from Cheung, the arrested CEO of Next Digital, said ‘Hang in there, everyone.’
Another resident, William Chan, said he bought a copy of the paper as a show of support.
‘It was such a groundless arrest and suppressed freedom of the press,’ he said.
The national security law was imposed after massive protests in 2019 challenged Beijing’s rule by calling for broader democratic freedoms. It outlaws subversion, secession, terrorism and collusion with foreign countries. The maximum penalty for serious offenders is life imprisonment.
Security Minister John Lee had on Thursday warned other journalists to distance themselves from those under investigation at Apple Daily. He said those arrested had used journalistic work to endanger national security and that anyone who was ‘in cahoots’ with them would pay a hefty price.
The Chinese government’s liaison office in Hong Kong said in a statement Thursday that it supported police action, noting that while the city’s mini-constitution, the Basic Law, guarantees the freedoms of speech and press, those rights cannot undermine the ‘bottom line of national security.’
‘Freedom of the press is not a `shield’ for illegal activities,’ the liaison office said.
State Department spokesman Ned Price said that the U.S. strongly condemned the arrests and called for the immediate release of the five arrested. He also called for Hong Kong authorities to stop targeting independent and free media.
‘We are deeply concerned by Hong Kong authorities’ selective use of the national security law to arbitrarily target independent media organizations,’ Price said, adding that the suspected foreign collusion charges appear to be politically motivated.
‘As we all know, exchanging views with foreigners in journalism should never be a crime,’ he said.
British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said in a tweet that freedom of the press is one of the rights China had promised to protect for 50 years when Britain handed over Hong Kong in 1997.
‘Today’s raids & arrests at Apple Daily in Hong Kong demonstrate Beijing is using the National Security Law to target dissenting voices, not tackle public security,’ Raab said.
European Union spokesperson Nabila Massrali said that the arrests ‘further demonstrates how the National Security Law is being used to stifle media freedom and freedom of expression in Hong Kong.’
She said that media freedom and pluralism were fundamental to Hong Kong’s success under the ‘one country, two systems’ framework.
Apple Daily has pledged to readers that it will continue its reporting, and on Thursday night invited members of the media to its printing presses to watch its Friday edition roll off the press in a show of commitment.
Its founder Jimmy Lai is currently serving a 20-month prison sentence on charges of playing a part in unauthorized protests in 2019. The paper’s average daily circulation has been around 86,000 copies.
Source: Thanks msn.com