Six former employees of the pro-democracy newspaper admit to conspiring to seek sanctions against China.
Six former employees of a Hong Kong newspaper forced to close under China’s sweeping national security law have pleaded guilty to conspiracy to collaborate with foreign troops.
The former Apple Daily employees admitted Tuesday that they conspired to ask another country or organization to impose sanctions for “or other hostile activity” against Hong Kong and China after prosecutors agreed to withdraw the sedition charge.
The four editors-in-chief and two executives pleaded guilty to collusion with Apple Daily founder Jimmy Lai, who awaits trial on separate national security charges.
Publisher Cheung Kim-hung, associate publisher Chan Pui-man, editor-in-chief Ryan Law, executive editor Lam Man-chung and editorial writers Fung Wai-kong and Yeung Ching-kee face life in prison.
The six, who were accused of using Apple Daily articles to solicit foreign sanctions against China, will be sentenced after the conclusion of Lai’s trial on national security and sedition charges.
The convictions are likely to add to fears for press freedom in the former British colony, which has fallen from 18th to 148th in the Reporters Without Borders press freedom index.
Apple Daily, a pro-democracy tabloid known for its strong criticism of Beijing, had to close in June last year after authorities froze bank accounts and arrested senior executives and editorial staff.
Several other pro-democracy media outlets, including Stand News, which was raided by police last December, have been forced to close under the national security law that Beijing introduced after massive and sometimes violent pro-democracy protests in 2019.
While Hong Kong remains nominally semi-autonomous from Beijing and claims to protect basic rights and freedoms under the principle known as “one country, two systems”, a large-scale crackdown on dissent since the law’s enactment has so the city’s lively political opposition was practically wiped out. and civil society.
Widely criticized by press freedom and human rights groups, the legislation criminalizes vague crimes such as succession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces.
Lai, a refugee from mainland China who made his fortune in clothing before launching Apple Daily in 1995, will stand trial on December 1.
The 74-year-old tycoon and three companies that prosecutors say were involved in the conspiracy have pleaded not guilty.