US President Joe Biden lamented a “sad day for media freedom in Hong Kong and around the world” after the financial hub’s pro-democracy Apple Daily tabloid was forced to close under a new national security law.
The newspaper published its defiant final edition on Thursday, in which it said it had been a “victim of tyranny” after 26 years of facing up to China’s authoritarian leaders.
“It is a sad day for media freedom in Hong Kong and around the world,” Biden said in a statement released by the White House.
“Intensifying repression by Beijing has reached such a level that Apple Daily, a much-needed bastion of independent journalism in Hong Kong, has now ceased publishing,” he continued.
“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.”
The prosecution of Apple Daily was sparked by articles and columns that allegedly supported international sanctions against China, a view now deemed illegal under the new security law imposed on Hong Kong last year.
The sudden death of the popular newspaper is the latest blow to Hong Kong’s freedoms, deepening unease over whether the international finance centre can remain a media hub as China seeks to stamp out dissent.
Praising the “invaluable role” that independent media plays in “resilient and prosperous societies,” Biden called on Beijing to halt its crackdown on the media.
“Beijing must stop targeting the independent press and release the journalists and media executives that have been detained,” he said.
“The act of journalism is not a crime.”