Hong Kong’s pro-democracy Apple Daily tabloid on June 23 announced its closure after its assets were frozen, in a major blow to media freedom in the city. Hours later, British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab blasted the Carrie Lam administration for “forced closure” of the outspoken anti-Beijing newspaper. In a Twitter statement, Raab asserted that the shutdown of Apple Daily was a “chilling demonstration” of the government’s effort to crush dissent in the city-state.
Since 2019, pro-democracy protests across Hong Kong have triggered a massive crackdown by mainland China. Not only has the Hong Kong administration allied to the Chinese Communist Party and arrested thousands of dissents but has also frozen assets of pro-democracy media outlets including Apple Daily. Condemning the same, Raab said that it was now clear that the National Security Law was used to curtail freedom of expression in Hong Kong.
The forced closure of @AppleDaily_HK by Hong Kong authorities is a chilling demonstration of their campaign to silence all opposition voices.— Dominic Raab (@DominicRaab) June 23, 2021
It is clearer than ever that the NSL is being used to curtail freedom & punish dissent. https://t.co/Y08LrmIInD
Hong Kong officials have frozen HK$18m ($2.3m; £1.64m) of assets owned by three companies linked to Apple Daily. Police also arrested five top editors and executives of Apple Daily under the city's tough national security law on suspicion of foreign collusion. The arrests and freezing of assets came as Hong Kong authorities crack down on dissenting voices as Beijing tightens control over the territory. Apple Daily has been outspoken in defending Hong Kong’s freedom. In recent years, it has often criticised the Chinese and Hong Kong governments for limiting the city's democratic freedoms as well as constricting the rights of free speech and assembly not found on mainland China.
Meanwhile, chief editor Ryan Law and chief executive Cheung Kim-hung were denied bail after being charged with 'collusion with a foreign country to endanger national security'. The two executives were among five others who were arrested on Thursday when 500 police officers raided the outlet’s newsroom. Police said the arrests were based on more than 30 articles that had appeared in the Apple Daily since the security law took effect.
The latest clampdown by pro-Beijing authorities in Hong Kong has caused a stir across the globe. China has garnered a lot of flak from the international community since it passed the controversial National Security Law. So far, several social activists, mostly pro-democracy advocates, accused of endangering China's national security have been charged under the law.