from the seeing-red dept
The decline of democracy in Hong Kong, with Beijing continuing to tighten its grip, has accelerated. While the Chinese government pledged a hands off posture towards Hong Kong for 50 years when the UK relinquished its control, that pledge seems to have been worth less than the paper on which it was written. A couple years ago, Hong Kong implemented a new “national security” law that has almost nothing to do with national security beyond allowing for the prosecution of anyone who doesn’t think the CCP are perfect in every way. The end result of that has been the arrest of media members accused of participating in “unauthorized protests”, arrests of protesters themselves, and the ousting and later arrest of pro-democracy lawmakers for the crime of being pro-democracy.
One of the media members arrested early on was Jimmy Lai, founder of the Apple Daily newspaper and website. Lai had initially gotten out on bail, only to have that bail revoked by the court on reinterpretation of the national security law. If the Chinese government thought that his arrest and treatment would end the voracious threat of an actual journalistic outfit in the Apple Daily, it was sorely mistaken. As you might expect, this of course has led to even further arrests of Apple Daily staff and partners.
Hong Kong police have arrested five editorial executives, including the editor in chief, of media outlet Apple Daily, freezing more corporate accounts and imperiling the future of the region’s most feisty, investigative paper. Ryan Law, the chief editor, the CEO of the newspaper’s publisher Cheung Kim-hung, the publisher’s chief operating officer Chan Puiman, and two other editors were among those arrested. The Apple Daily live stream showed Law being led out of the paper’s offices in handcuffs early Thursday morning.
“They’re our top three editorial people, they’ve just stripped out our top three editorial people,” said Mark Simon, a Taiwan-based executive with the paper’s publisher Next Media.
These types of arrests in Hong Kong are so frequent now that they risk becoming routine in the eyes of the world. Thanks to the unfortunate rise of populist authoritarianism in many Western democracies, many world nations have self-neutered their ability to credibly respond. The end result is that Hong Kong has been largely left to the communist wolves, with much lip-service being paid by the rest of the world.
In the case of these specific arrests, the Hong Kong stasi did its stasi-thing because the Apple Daily had the gaul to suggest that other countries should actually get off their asses and do more to help the Hong Kong people.
Li Guihua, a senior officer with Hong Kong’s special legal body set up to prosecute national security cases, said that the editors were arrested because of “dozens of articles in Apple Daily that called on foreign agencies to impose sanctions on China or the Hong Kong government.”
Around 200 police officers were sent to Apple Daily’s offices to search the premises and confiscate “journalistic materials,” according to a national security police statement.
“There is huge frustration that Apple Daily won’t stop,” said Simon.
No doubt, but none of this means the rest of the world has to stand by and do nothing. Unfortunately, standing by and doing nothing appears to be the plan, as the Chinese government continues the slow reverse-drip of any independence in Hong Kong, sucking out the established freedoms of the population a handful of arrests at a time. The government’s plan appears to still be to scare the absolute shit out of everyone until they self-censor. The below is again from Li Guihua:
“I also want to give a warning – don’t attract suspicion. If there’s no special circumstances for you to share it, I advise you not to do it, so as not to attract suspicion,” Li said.
And that’s the real purpose in all of this. Yes, news organizations like the Apple Daily are a threat to Chinese rule, but the real threat is Hong Kong’s citizens. If they collectively decided to really kickstart a pushback, that would create a crisis that would put Hong Kong in the type of international crosshairs that are more difficult to ignore.
But for now, it seems, the world is content to just watch all this from the sidelines.