Hong Kong: six ex-employees of the pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily plead guilty

Six former editors and executives of the now-closed Hong Kong pro-democracy tabloid Apple Daily pleaded guilty on Tuesday (November 22nd) to collusion with foreign forces, charges punishable by life imprisonment.

This is the first time that the drastic national security law, imposed by Beijing in mid-2020 on the territory in order to muzzle any dissent, has been invoked against a press organ and members of its staff.

Accused of breaking the law

The Apple Daily, a critic of Chinese power, had supported the pro-democracy movement which shook Hong Kong in 2019. The newspaper had closed in mid-2021 after a freeze of its funds and the arrest of some of its executives, including its founder Jimmy Lai, charged with violating national security law.

Four former editors and two former executives pleaded guilty in the city’s highest court on Tuesday to “conspiracy of collusion with foreign forces to threaten national security“. Those who appeared were the newspaper’s managing director Cheung Kim-hung, deputy editor Chan Pui-man, editor-in-chief Law Wai-kwong, editor-in-chief Lam Man-chung, and editors Fung Wai-kong and Yeung Ching-kee.

national security

The prosecution accuses them of using Apple Daily to broadcast content calling for foreign sanctions against China. She produced as evidence more than 160 articles published since April 2019. The text on national security, with vague outlines, criminalizes subversion, secession, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces. Prosecutors dropped sedition charges, in exchange for their guilty plea to “collusion“.

The six defendants have been in pre-trial detention for almost a year and a half, and will not be sentenced before the end of the trial of Jimmy Lai and three companies that depended on Apple Daily. A prosecutor told the court that some of the six defendants would testify at the December trial of the famous Hong Kong media tycoon, who pleaded not guilty.

Hong Kong has plunged this year to 148th place in the world ranking of press freedom published by the organization Reporters Without Borders (RSF). In 2002, the year in which this ranking was first published, the territory occupied the 18th position and was seen as a haven for freedom of expression in Asia.

Source link -94