Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam says the authorities’ actions against the pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily are not against press freedom and rejects international criticism. She sees the critical voices as attempts to “beautify” acts that endangered national security.
Key Apple Daily employees, such as the publisher and editor-in-chief, were recently arrested, and the company’s bank accounts have been frozen. As a result, the newspaper is in acute need of money and is in danger of stopping all activities. The publisher and editor-in-chief have been charged with violating the national security law that China has tightened its hold on the former British crown colony. A court refused to release them on bail.
Rights groups, media organizations and Western governments have criticized the authorities’ actions and expressed concerns about press freedom and other rights in the Chinese-ruled city. For example, the United States expressed deep concern about the “selective” and “politically motivated” use of the security law.
Lam called the US allegations false during her weekly press conference. “Don’t try to downplay the importance of violating national security law,” Lam said. “Do not try to embellish these acts that endanger national security. And do not try to accuse the Hong Kong authorities of using the national security law as a tool to suppress the media or stifle freedom of expression,” he added them to it.
On Thursday, a total of five key staff members at the newspaper were arrested, while about 500 police officers searched the editorial office and seized at least 40 hard drives. The search was carried out because of thirty opinion pieces in the newspaper calling for foreign sanctions against China and Hong Kong. The newspaper’s owner, media tycoon Jimmy Lai, was already in jail. He wrote some of the articles.
Board members of publisher Next Digital are asking Hong Kong authorities to release some of the frozen assets so that staff can be paid. If not, the final publication date will be announced Friday, according to Apple Daily. The first editors have since resigned. The economics editors and the English edition of Apple Daily stop, and the host of the digital evening show announced her departure.