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Editorial: World must not abandon Hong Kong as Apple Daily comes to dramatic end

Hong Kong's pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily has ceased publication. The Law of the People's Republic of China on Safeguarding National Security in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, informally referred to as the national security law, has been used by authorities to freeze the company's assets and force an end to its operations.

    Police maintained that the paper has printed many articles calling on foreign countries to introduce sanctions against China and Hong Kong.

    The June 24 edition of the paper was its last. In a strongly worded parting editorial, the paper slammed the crackdown, saying, "Freedom of reporting has become a victim of tyranny." It concluded by saying it would forever love Hong Kong and its readers.

    Apple Daily was launched in 1995, and became known for its front pages that ran the gamut from criticism of the Communist Party of China to gossip; it did not fear taboos. In June 2020, after the national security law was passed, it doubled down on its support for democracy.

    The Chinese government came to take an adversarial approach to the paper, and referred to it as "traitorous." In April, founder Jimmy Lai was imprisoned after being found guilty of contravening the national security law.

    This month has seen senior figures at the paper arrested one after another, and its managing company is the first corporate entity to have been indicted under the national security law. It is clear authorities intend to bury the newspaper company.

    The action against the paper constitutes a forceful introduction into Hong Kong of Chinese-style speech controls, which do not tolerate dissent.

    Trust in Hong Kong as an international city has been decisively compromised. Precisely because freedom of speech was allowed there, it was able to present itself to the world as a window between China and the outside world. It provided valuable insight into the internal workings of the communist regime.

    Hong Kong's position as an international financial center has also been rocked. Unease is spreading, particularly among western firms, and moves to withdraw from Hong Kong are accelerating.

    The implementation of the national security law will advance the "Chinafication" of all areas of Hong Kong society. The separation of legal, administrative and judicial powers has been rejected, and patriotism is now a condition for people's political participation.

    Following similar cancellations of Tiananmen Square anniversary memorial gatherings, it is expected that the annual July 1 march to commemorate Hong Kong being handed over by the U.K. to China will be canceled for the first time. It seems very much like the path toward democratization is being closed off.

    Many people, aware of the crisis the Apple Daily faced, tried to buy many copies of the paper. The final edition had a print run 10 times the size of a normal edition, with a million copies going to press. This showed the people of Hong Kong's strong desire to support freedom of speech.

    The international community cannot leave the people of Hong Kong, who continue to believe in the values of freedom while living under oppression, to become isolated.

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