More than 20 members of the Media Freedom Coalition, a partnership of countries formed in 2019 to push for press freedom and the safety of journalists, issued a statement expressing their strong concerns over the folding of the pro-democracy newspaper, which ceased operations last month after the government froze its assets and arrested its senior executives on national security charges.
“The use of the National Security Law to suppress journalism is a serious and negative step which undermines Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy and the rights and freedoms of people in Hong Kong,” said the group of countries including Australia, Austria, Canada, France, Germany, the UK and the US.
“The action against Apple Daily comes against a backdrop of increased media censorship in Hong Kong, including pressure on the independence of the public broadcaster and recent legal action by the Hong Kong authorities against journalists.”
The countries added that the freedom of the press had been central to Hong Kong’s success and international reputation.
In response, a spokesperson for the Office of the Commissioner of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Hong Kong issued a “severe condemnation” and “staunch opposition” to the statement.
“Apple Daily had long been a ‘poisonous apple’ that had been engaged in illegal acts that harmed the country and caused chaos in Hong Kong while disguised as the media,” said the spokesperson.
The office went on to say that the coalition does not represent the majority of the international community nor mainstream voices.
It also warned of retaliation against further “interference.”
“Stop engaging in the ugly business of interfering in Hong Kong and China’s internal affairs, or the whole population of China including compatriots in Hong Kong will staunchly fight back.”