The crackdown on Hong Kong's media continues

AP Photo/Vincent Yu

The situation in Hong Kong continues to deteriorate as the Chinese Communist Party tightens its grip and seeks to remove the last vestiges of free, democratic activity. The latest offense was a chilling one, with the senior editors and executives of the city’s largest pro-democracy newspaper being arrested under the city’s new national security law. Without explanation, the staff was accused of “colluding with foreign powers” and placed behind bars. The newspaper’s founder, Jimmy Lai, is already serving a 20-month sentence for participating in protests last year. More than 200 police searched the offices of Apple Daily, confiscating dozens of computers and taking away the top executives in handcuffs. (Associated Press)

Hong Kong police used a sweeping national security law Thursday to arrest five editors and executives of a pro-democracy newspaper on charges of colluding with foreign powers — the first time the legislation has been used against the press in yet another sign of an intensifying crackdown by Chinese authorities in the city long known for its freedoms.

Police said they had evidence that more than 30 articles published by Apple Daily played a “crucial part” in what they called a conspiracy with foreign countries to impose sanctions against China and Hong Kong.

The newspaper said in a statement that the move left it “speechless” but vowed to continue its reporting and even invited other media outlets to watch the Friday editions roll off the presses, a show of its commitment to continue its work.

Other journalists and trade groups in Hong Kong are rightfully up in arms, warning that true journalism is being silenced and editors won’t be able to do their jobs if their sources fear that their identities can’t be protected. Journalists Association Chairman Chris Yeung warned that newspapers will be engaging in self-censorship as the government moves to “draw red lines” in terms of what can or can’t be published.

The actions were technically taken by the Hong Kong government under the leadership of Carrie Lam. But it’s no secret who is really calling the shots. The Chinese government’s liaison office in the city quickly released a statement saying, “Freedom of the press is not a ‘shield’ for illegal activities.”

The remaining staff at the paper have already vowed to keep on publishing, but that may be more of an act of sacrifice than bravery. China is essentially ignoring all of the sanctions that have been placed on its officials and the municipal government of Hong Kong. Carrie Lam’s government only exists because it’s a useful tool for the Chinese Communist Party, not an expression of the will of the people of Hong Kong. And shutting down the free press is typical for any communist regime.

China was supposed to allow the existing democratic structure in Hong Kong to continue for fifty years after Great Britain ceded control in 1997. Clearly, Xi Jinping isn’t going to be patient enough to wait that long. And once Hong Kong is fully on the leash, how much longer will China wait before moving directly against Taiwan? Great Britain is still offering expedited visas for anyone in Hong Kong who wants to flee. It’s understandable how many of the residents don’t want to simply surrender and abandon their place of birth, but they might want to consider packing their bags and taking the Brits up on their offer. The Hong Kong they knew and loved basically doesn’t exist anymore.