U.S. President Joe Biden called the shuttering of Hong Kong’s independent Apple Daily newspaper a “sad day for media freedom in Hong Kong and around the world,” blaming China for “intensifying repression.”
“Through arrests, threats and forcing through a National Security Law that penalizes free speech, Beijing has insisted on wielding its power to suppress independent media and silence dissenting views,” Biden said in a statement.
He accused Beijing of denying Hong Kong “basic liberties and assaulting Hong Kong’s autonomy and democratic institutions and processes.”
The parent company of the Hong Kong-based pro-democracy Apple Daily announced Wednesday that it would shut down the publication this week.
The decision to close Apple Daily came nearly a week after more than 500 police officers raided the newspaper’s offices and arrested its chief editor, Ryan Law, and four other executives with the newspaper and its publisher, Next Digital. Authorities then froze $2.3 million of its assets, leaving the company unable to pay its staffers.
Law and Chief Executive Officer Cheung Kim-hung have been charged with colluding with a foreign country and have been denied bail.
Apple Daily and its publisher, Next Digital founder and owner Jimmy Lai, 73, have been the target of Hong Kong authorities since China imposed a strict national security law last June in response to the massive and sometimes violent anti-government protests in 2019.
The newspaper’s offices were raided last August after Lai was arrested at his house on suspicion of foreign collusion.
Lai is serving a 14-month prison sentence for taking part in separate unauthorized assemblies in 2019. His assets in Next Digital were frozen by the government last month.
Hong Kong authorities have cited dozens of articles published by Apple Daily it says violated the security law, which targets anyone authorities suspect of carrying out terrorism, separatism, subversion of state power or collusion with foreign forces.