Hong Kong: Apple Daily reporters plead guilty to collusion
November 22, 2022
The staffers of Apple Daily are involved in a landmark case under a Beijing-imposed national security law. The Hong Kong news outlet was a vocal critic of the Chinese government until it collapsed last year.
Publisher Cheung Kim-hung, associated publisher Chan Pui-man, Editor-in-Chief Ryan Law, Executive Editor-in-Chief Lam Man-chung, and editorial writers Fung Wai-kong and Yeung Ching-kee all admitted to conspiring with the newspaper's founder Jimmy Lai to call for sanctions and blockades against China and Hong Kong, in a courtroom on Tuesday.
The prosecutors refrained from adding sedition charges in exchange for the six pleading guilty to collusion.
The senior staffers now face life in prison, the maximum sentence possible under the 2020 National Security Law. The prosecution had presented some 160 articles as proof that they used Apple Daily to call for sanctions against China.
However, the journalists are unlikely to receive a formal sentence until other related cases against Lai and three Apple Daily companies are concluded.
Shutting down dissent
Hong Kong's press freedom had deteriorated steadily in the last two decades, its global ranking in press freedom dropping from 18th position in 2002 to 148th position in 2022, according to Reporters Without Borders. It fell 50 places just in the last year.
Launched in 1995, Apple Daily was one of the harsher voices against China for years and backed the pro-democracy movement during the 2019 nation-wide protests.
In June of 2021, the publication shut its offices after its bank accounts were frozen and several senior members accused of putting national security at risk.
Since its introduction in 2020, the national security law has been used by Hong Kong's pro-Beijing officials to silence dissent. Several news outlets have faced charges and an estimated 1,000 journalists have been fired, according to a Bloomberg report.