Six former employees of the pro-democracy newspaper admit they conspired to call for sanctions against China.
Six former employees of a Hong Kong newspaper that was forced to close under the Chinese territory’s national security law have pleaded guilty to conspiring to collude with foreign forces.
Former Apple Daily employees admitted Tuesday to conspiring to ask a foreign country or organization to sanction “or engage in other hostile activities” against Hong Kong and China after prosecutors agreed to drop sedition charges.
The four top publishers and two executives have pleaded guilty to conspiring with Apple Daily founder Jimmy Lai, who is awaiting trial on separate national security charges, in collusion.
Editor Cheung Kim-hung, Associate Editor 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 face the maximum sentence of life imprisonment. prison.
The six, who were charged with using Apple Daily articles to call for foreign sanctions against China, will be sentenced after Lai’s trial on national security and sedition charges concludes.
The convictions are likely to raise fears for press freedom in the former British colony, which has plunged from 18th place to 148th in Reporters Without Borders’ press freedom index.
Apple Daily, a pro-democracy tabloid known for its strong criticism of Beijing, was forced to shut down in June last year after authorities froze its bank accounts and arrested top executives and editorial staff.
Several other pro-democracy media outlets, including Stand News, which was raided by police last December, have been forced to shut down under the national security law, which Beijing introduced following pro-democracy protests. massive and sometimes violent democracies in 2019.
While Hong Kong remains nominally semi-autonomous from Beijing and claims to protect basic rights and freedoms under a principle known as “one country, two systems,” a sweeping crackdown on dissent since the law’s introduction has all but wiped out political opposition. of the once vibrant city. and civil society.
The legislation, which has been widely criticized by press freedom and human rights groups, criminalizes the vaguely defined crimes of succession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces.
Lai, a refugee from mainland China who made his fortune in clothing before launching Apple Daily in 1995, will stand trial on December 1.
The 74-year-old tycoon and three companies that prosecutors say were involved in the conspiracy have pleaded not guilty.