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‘Journalism is not a crime’: Biden accuses Beijing of ‘denying basic liberties’ following the closure of Apple Daily

US President Joe Biden has blasted press freedom in Hong Kong over the closure of Apple Daily, and called for the release of the “journalists and media executives” who have been detained.

Hong Kong-based newspaper Apple Daily closed its doors on Thursday after its offices were raided by police, employees detained, and assets frozen following accusations that the outlet was engaging in “collusion with a foreign country.”

Officials pointed to examples of the newspaper encouraging foreign sanctions on China as a “crucial part” of their accusation. 

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Hong Kong Police arriving at the Apple Daily newspaper offices in Hong Kong early on June 17, 2021. © AFP / APPLE DAILY.
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Li Ping, an editorial writer at the paper, was arrested in Tseung Kwan O “on suspicion of conspiring to collude with foreign countries or foreign forces to endanger national security,” and the paper’s CEO, COO, and chief editor were all taken into custody.

In a statement on Thursday, Biden called Apple Daily a “much-needed bastion of independent journalism in Hong Kong” that was forced to close due to “intensifying repression by Beijing.”

The president went on to say the national security law Apple Daily is accused of violating “penalizes free speech,” and called on Beijing to “stop targeting the independent press” and release all detained Apple Daily employees. 

Carrie Lam, Hong Kong’s chief executive, previously pushed back against Western nations condemning the situation with Apple Daily. 

“It’s not a problem to criticize the Hong Kong government, but if there is an intent to organize activities to incite the subversion of the government then that is, of course, a different thing,” she said about the arrests. 

The US had previously condemned the arrests and raid as “politically motivated,” something Lam specifically denounced. 

“Don’t try to underplay the significance of breaching the national security law,” she said. “Don’t try to beautify these acts of endangering national security.”

Hua Chunying, spokesperson for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, has also previously criticized the US regarding press freedom.

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Apple Daily Chief Operations Officer Chow Tat Kuen (2nd R) escorted by police from offices of Apple Daily newspaper in Hong Kong on June 17, 2021
Hong Kong police charge 2 people with ‘collusion with a foreign country’ after arrests at Apple Daily newspaper

“Some in the US, in the name of freedom of press and speech, wantonly smear and attack China. This in itself is spreading disinformation and a travesty of real freedom and democracy,” she said, going on to cite Julian Assange as an example of the US’ negative treatment of journalists. 

“If they are truly defending freedom, why deprive other countries of their right and freedom to normal development and suppress them?” she added. 

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