6 Apple Daily employee pleads guilty to collusion in Hong Kong

HONG KONG — Six former executives of a now-defunct Hong Kong pro-democracy newspaper pleaded guilty Tuesday to charges of collusion under the National Security Law, which has silenced and imprisoned most dissenting voices in the southern Chinese territory.

Staff at Apple Daily were arrested last year in a crackdown on dissent after Beijing introduced a sweeping security law in response to widespread anti-government protests in 2019. They were accused of conspiring with foreign forces to endanger national security.

The law criminalizes inheritance, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign powers. The maximum sentence is life imprisonment.

Publisher Cheung Kim-hung, Associate Publisher Chan Pui-man, Editor-in-Chief Ryan Law, Managing Editor-in-Chief Lam Man-chung, and Editors Fung Wai-kong and Yeung Ching-kee admitted to conspiring Newspaper founder Jimmy Lai calls for sanctions or blockade , or engages in other hostile activities against Hong Kong or China.

Prosecutors alleged that three companies affiliated with Apple Daily participated in the conspiracy from July 1, 2020, the day after the introduction of the National Security Act, to June 24, 2021, the day of the paper’s last print edition.

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Lai and the three companies are expected to plead not guilty to their charges and their trial is expected to begin on December 1. If convicted, Lai could face up to life in prison. If the companies are convicted, they can be fined and the proceeds of the crime can be confiscated.

Police raided Apple Daily’s offices in June 2021, taking hard drives and laptops as evidence, sending shockwaves through the city’s media. Due to the arrest of the top managers, editors and journalists of the paper and the freezing of assets worth 2.3 million dollars, the paper ceased its activities. It sold a million copies in its final edition.

Hong Kong fell more than 60 places to 148th in Reporters Without Borders’ latest World Press Freedom Index released in May. The media watchdog cited the closure of Apple Daily and Stand News, a vocal online media outlet that gained popularity during the 2019 protests but was forced to close amid ongoing crackdowns.

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The watchdog also said the city’s press freedom has seen an “unprecedented setback” since the introduction of the security law, which “serves as an excuse to silence independent voices” in the name of fighting national security crimes.

Source: https://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory/6-apple-daily-staff-plead-guilty-collusion-hong-93763093