Several online media outlets in Hong Kong took down opinion articles and videos from their websites or said they would move out of the city after one more columnist of the Apple Daily was arrested at the airport on Sunday.
Stand News, a pro-democracy news outlet, said in a statement that it had temporarily removed commentaries written by its bloggers and readers from May this year and before until it had decided whether it was appropriate to publish them again.
It said it had decided to stop accepting monthly sponsorship from readers and to shelve older commentaries. It added that it had enough money to run for another nine to 12 months and maintain its current editorial guidelines.
The news outlet said six of its directors, including barrister Margaret Ng, singer Denise Ho and columnist Joseph Lian, have accepted recommendations to resign. Two founding directors, Tony Tsoi and chief editor Chung Pui-kuen, will stay on, according to reports.
Post852.com, a media website that stopped its news operations on May 5 but still operates a YouTube channel, also said it had taken down all its videos on Sunday evening due to the tightening control in Hong Kong’s media sector.
Yau Ching-yuen, founder of the platform and a political commentator, said Monday that he would only talk about Hong Kong’s history, not politics, on his YouTube channel in future.
Winandmac Media, an IT website that had covered Hong Kong news since 2010, said it had already moved its operations and financial resources out of Hong Kong due to the dramatic deterioration of press freedom in the city.
The announcements came after the Hong Kong police arrested Fung Wai-kong, a 57-year-old former Apple Daily columnist with the pen-name Lo Fung, at the airport on Sunday evening for “conspiring to collude with foreign countries or foreign forces to endanger national security.” It was said that Fong planned to go to the United Kingdom.
Fung, who was previously in charge of the paper’s English edition, was the second Apple Daily writer arrested by the police after Yeung Ching-kee, who wrote under the pen name Li Ping, was detained last Wednesday for violating the National Security Law. Yeung was granted bail last Friday.
The Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA) condemned the police for again targeting journalists. Ronson Chan, chairman of the HKJA, said it was worrying that Apple Daily’s closure failed to stop further arrests.
“We are afraid that the police have a list and still many journalists or commentary writers will be targeted by the police. So I’m afraid that the arrests will continue,” Chan said, adding that recent events had almost spelt the death of Hong Kong’s press freedom.
On June 17, police raided Apple Daily’s headquarters and five executives were arrested. The paper’s bank accounts were also frozen by the then secretary for security John Lee.
Lee, who was promoted as the new Chief Secretary on June 25, was the acting Chief Executive on Monday as Carrie Lam left for Beijing to attend the 100th anniversary of the Communist Party of China.
Protests in the UK
Last Thursday, the Apple Daily published its last edition after ending its Hong Kong operations for safety reasons. On Sunday, a former Apple Daily reporter named Jeff, who moved to the UK some time ago, printed 10,000 copies of the last edition and delivered them on the streets during protests in London, Manchester and other UK cities. Hundreds of Hong Kong people attended the protests.
Jeff said he hoped the spirit of the Apple Daily, which he said safeguarded press freedom, would continue outside Hong Kong. He said he did not represent the newspaper.
Benedict Rogers, a former Apple Daily writer and co-founder and chief executive of Hong Kong Watch, said he submitted his last article to the newspaper on June 16 but it wasn’t published due to the police raid. Rogers said he would contribute again if the newspaper could resume operations in any form.
Wong Wai-Chun, former deputy editor-in-chief of Apple Daily, told Stand News that the newspaper had no plan to continue its publication overseas as such a move would jeopardize the safety of its former employees in Hong Kong.
During the rally in London, some local people chatted with the protesters while many passers-by felt indifferent. A couple, who preferred to stay anonymous, said they were worried that Hong Kong protesters would influence the British government and make the UK become anti-China. They also said they were affected by protests when they were living in Hong Kong in 2019.
After the Apple Daily was forced to cease publication, United States President Joe Biden said in a statement on June 24 that the US would not waver in its support of “people in Hong Kong and all those who stand up for the basic freedoms all people deserve.”
“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. “It is a sad day for media freedom in Hong Kong and around the world.”
Zhao Lijian, a spokesperson of China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said Friday that the US leader’s comments on the shutdown of the Apple Daily were groundless. Zhao said the US should respect the truth and stop interfering Hong Kong’s affairs.
In a letter published on Saturday, US Senators Pat Toomey and Chris Van Hollen urged Biden to hold the Chinese Communist Party accountable by using the Hong Kong Autonomy Act to identify and sanction individuals and entities responsible for Apple Daily’s closure.
On June 10, the National People’s Congress’ standing committee passed an anti-foreign sanctions law after a four-day meeting. Under the law, mainland-based people or organizations cannot implement foreign sanctions imposed on any Chinese person or company in mainland China. It is unclear whether the law will be implemented in Hong Kong.