On Tuesday, six former executives of the now-deceased Hong Kong Democracy Newspaper pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy under the national security law that have silenced and imprisoned most dissidents in the southern Chinese territory.
An Apple Daily staffer was arrested last year during a crackdown on dissenters after Beijing imposed sweeping safety laws in response to widespread anti-government protests in 2019.
The law criminalizes acts of inheritance, subversion, terrorism, and collusion with foreign powers. Its maximum penalty is life imprisonment. However, the six were expected to receive less punishment due to their guilty pleas.
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Publisher Cheung Kim-hung, affiliated publisher Chan Pui-man, editor-in-chief Ryan Law, editor-in-chief Lam Man-chung, and editorial writers Fung Wai-kong and Yeung Ching-kee said they conspired to I acknowledged that The newspaper’s founder, Jimmy Lai, called for sanctions and blockades to be imposed, and engaged in other hostile activities against Hong Kong and China.
Prosecutors found that from July 1, 2020 (the day after the National Security Law was introduced) to June 24, 2021, when the paper’s last print edition was published, three companies linked to the Apple Daily were also involved in the conspiracy. claimed to have
They pointed to the English version of this publication and claimed that it was introduced by Lai for the purpose of imposing sanctions on foreign powers or demanding them to turn against Hong Kong or China. After the security law was enacted, Apple Daily denounced the law as “evil law” and called for resistance, they added.
Lai and the three companies plan to plead not guilty and the trial is set to begin on December 1. Mr Lai faces life in prison if convicted. If a company is found guilty, it can be fined and the proceeds of the crime confiscated.
After hearing their pleas and the prosecution’s arguments, a High Court judge convicted the six. Their sentence will be handed down after Lai’s trial.
Among those in attendance were local journalists and former Apple Daily staffers, some of whom waved to the defendants before and after the hearing.
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Police raided Apple Daily’s offices in June 2021 and seized a hard drive and laptop as evidence, shocking the city’s media throughout. The paper ceased operations after its executives, editors and journalists were arrested and assets worth $2.3 million were frozen. The final version sold one million copies.
Hong Kong fell more than 60 spots to 148th in the latest Global Press Freedom Index released by Reporters Without Borders in May. The media watchdog cited the shutdowns of Apple Daily and Stand News, vocal online media that became popular during the 2019 protests but were forced to shut down during the ongoing crackdown.
The Observatory also said the city’s press freedom has seen an “unprecedented setback” since the introduction of the Security Act, which “serves as an excuse to mock independent voices” in the guise of fighting national security crimes. Stated.
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Separately, nine people were convicted of rioting in another Hong Kong court on Tuesday in October 2019. They were one of thousands of residents arrested three years ago for their role in widespread protests.