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Rabu, 23 Juni 2021

Hong Kong's Apple Daily newspaper to close as first person stands trial under security law - ABC News

Hong Kong's pro-democracy tabloid Apple Daily will print its last edition on Thursday, the paper said, after a stormy year in which it was raided by police and its tycoon owner and other staff were arrested under a new national security law.

The board of directors of Next Media said in a statement that Apple Daily's print edition and online edition would cease due to "the current circumstances prevailing in Hong Kong".

The announcement followed last week's arrest of five editors and executives and the freezing of US$2.3 million ($3 million) in assets under the city's national security law.

"Thank you to all readers, subscribers, ad clients and Hong Kongers for 26 years of immense love and support," Apple Daily said in an article on its website.

Hong Kong police officers in blue shirts march down the street
Hong Kong police have arrested Apple Daily editors, writers and executives.(

AP: Vincent Yu

)

Chinese officials say press freedom cannot be used as a 'shield'

Apple Daily's closure comes as authorities crack down on dissent following months of anti-government protests in 2019.

The announcement also coincided with the start of the first trial under the national security law, imposed by Beijing about a year ago.

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam smirks as she speaks into microphones
Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam has palmed off criticism of the raids against Apple Daily.(

AP: Kin Cheung

)

The widely expected move to close Apple Daily followed last week's arrests of the five editors and executives, who were detained on suspicion of colluding with foreigners to endanger national security.

Police cited more than 30 articles published by the paper as evidence of an alleged conspiracy to encourage foreign nations to impose sanctions on Hong Kong and China.

It was the freezing of assets that spelled the paper's demise.

The board of directors had earlier this week written to Hong Kong's security bureau requesting the release of some of its funds so the company could pay wages.

Earlier on Wednesday police arrested a 55-year-old man on suspicion of foreign collusion to endanger national security.

According to Apple Daily, which cited unidentified sources, the man wrote editorials for the newspaper under the pseudonym Li Ping.

The police operation against Apple Daily drew criticism from the US, the EU and Britain, which say Hong Kong and Chinese authorities are targeting the freedoms promised to the city when the former British colony was returned to China in 1997.

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said criticism of the raid and arrests amounted to attempts to "beautify" acts that endangered national security.

A pile of newspapers with a man on the cover and a headline in Chinese script.
Pro-Beijing newspapers have condemned Apple Daily founder Jimmy Lai as a "dog-like animal" and a "traitor".(

AP: Kin Cheung

)

Chinese and Hong Kong officials have said the media must abide by the law, and that press freedom cannot be used as a "shield" for illegal activities.

The national security law imposed last year criminalises subversion, secession, terrorism and foreign collusion. 

Tong Ying-kit pleads not guilty to terrorism charges

The first person to stand trial under the law, Tong Ying-kit, pleaded not guilty to charges of terrorism and inciting secession by driving a motorcycle into police officers during a 2019 rally while carrying a flag with the slogan "Liberate Hong Kong, the revolution of our times."

Several officers were knocked over and three sustained injuries.

His trial will set the tone for how Hong Kong handles national security offences.

The slogan "Liberate Hong Kong, the revolution of our times" was often chanted during anti-government demonstrations demanding broader democratic freedoms.

A man wearing a face mask sits in the back of a car
Tong Ying-kit faces life imprisonment under Hong Kong's national security law.(

AP: Vincent Yu

)

Protesters accuse Beijing of walking back on its promise, made at the 1997 handover of Hong Kong from Britain, that the city could retain its freedoms.

China has responded with tough measures silencing opposition voices, including the national security law.

The legislation makes calls for Hong Kong independence illegal, and a government notice last July said the protest slogan was a call for independence and subversion of state power.

A court ruled last month that Mr Tong will stand trial without a jury, a departure from Hong Kong's common law traditions.

Under the national security law, a panel of three judges can replace jurors, and the city's leader has the power to designate judges to hear such cases.

The law carries a maximum penalty of life in prison for serious offences.

Mr Tong is on trial at the High Court, where sentences are not capped.

So far, more than 100 people have been arrested under the security law, including prominent pro-democracy activists such as media tycoon Jimmy Lai, the publisher of Apple Daily.

Pro-Beijing newspapers Wen Wei Po and Ta Kung Pao published special pages on Wednesday, portraying Mr Lai as a "dog-like animal", a "traitor" and a shoe-shiner doing the bidding of the United States.

AP/Reuters

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2021-06-23 09:57:39Z
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