UK slams China for stifling dissent after Apple Daily announces closure
Media advocacy groups believe that the closure of Apple Daily would undermine the former British colony's reputation as an open and free society and send a warning to other companies that could be accused of colluding with a foreign country
Britain on Wednesday blasted China for using a new national security law to stifle free speech in Hong Kong after the closure of pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily.
"The forced closure of Apple Daily by the Hong Kong authorities is a chilling blow to freedom of expression in Hong Kong," Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said in a statement.
"It is crystal clear that the powers under the National Security Law are being used as a tool to curtail freedoms and punish dissent -- rather than keep public order," he said, demanding China respect its obligations over Hong Kong's 1997 handover from UK rule.
Media advocacy groups believe that the closure of Apple Daily would undermine the former British colony's reputation as an open and free society and send a warning to other companies that could be accused of colluding with a foreign country.
The newspaper said on Sunday the freezing of its assets had left it with cash for "a few weeks" for normal operations.
Chief Editor Ryan Law, 47, and Chief Executive Cheung Kim-hung, 59, were denied bail on Saturday after being charged with conspiracy to commit collusion with a foreign country.
Three other executives were arrested on Thursday when 500 police officers raided the newspaper's offices, drawing condemnation from Western countries, global rights groups, and the UN spokesperson for human rights.
Those three are still under investigation but were released with bail.
Security Secretary John Lee told a news conference on Thursday the police operation against the Apple Daily was aimed at those who use reporting as a "tool" to endanger national security and did not target the media industry as a whole.
Hong Kong's Security Bureau said it would not comment given ongoing legal proceedings and any application related to the frozen property would be handled according to the law.
Rights group Amnesty International said on Twitter that this is "effectively a Hong Kong government ban of a newspaper."
The paper has come under increasing pressure since owner and Beijing critic Lai, who is now in jail, was arrested under the national security law last August and has since had some of his assets frozen.
(With inputs from agencies)