Biden blasts Beijing over Hong Kong paper closure: ‘Sad day for media freedom’
President Biden on Thursday slammed China over the closure of Hong Kong pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily, calling it a “sad day for media freedom in Hong Kong.”
Apple Daily printed its final edition on Thursday, selling out the 1 million copies it printed within hours, according to The Associated Press. The closure came after the arrest of several of the paper’s editors and executives last week on charges of violating Beijing’s national security law imposed last year.
“It is a sad day for media freedom in Hong Kong and around the world,” Biden said in a statement Thursday. “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.”
Five editors and executives at Apple Daily were arrested last week and are accused of colluding with foreign countries. It was the first time that the national security law had been used to directly target media outlets.
Authorities pointed to more than 30 articles they alleged played a key role in encouraging foreign governments to impose sanctions.
Jimmy Lai, founder of Apple Daily, was previously sentenced to 14 months in prison for helping to organize an unauthorized pro-democracy rally in Hong Kong in 2019.
In his statement, Biden emphasized the role of independent media in society, and called on Beijing to release the reporters and media executives that have been detained.
“Journalists are truth-tellers who hold leaders accountable and keep information flowing freely—and that is needed now more than ever in Hong Kong, and in places around the world where democracy is under threat,” Biden said. “Beijing must stop targeting the independent press and release the journalists and media executives that have been detained. The act of journalism is not a crime.”
“The United States will not waver in our support of people in Hong Kong and all those who stand up for the basic freedoms all people deserve,” the president added.