6 former Apple Daily employees have pleaded guilty to complicity in Hong Kong

Six former executives of a now-defunct Hong Kong pro-democracy newspaper pleaded guilty on Tuesday to charges of complicity under a national security law that silenced and imprisoned most dissenting voices in the southern Chinese territory.

Apple Daily employees were arrested last year during a crackdown on dissent after Beijing imposed the sweeping security law in response to widespread anti-government protests in 2019. They were charged with conspiracy to commit collusion with foreign forces to endanger national security.

Acts of succession, subversion, terrorism, and collusion with foreign forces are criminalized by law. Its maximum penalty is life imprisonment. But the six were expected to receive lesser sentences because of their guilty pleas.

APPLE increases the pressure every day after the Hong Kong police raids

Publisher Cheung Kim-hung, associated publisher Chan Pui-man, editor-in-chief Ryan Law, executive editor Lam Man-chung, and editorial writers Fung Wai-kong and Yeung Ching-kee have admitted that they conspired with newspaper founder Jimmy Lai’s calls to impose sanctions or blockades, or engage in other hostile activities against Hong Kong or China.

Prosecutors alleged that three companies associated with Apple Daily were also involved in the plot from July 1, 2020 — the day after the national security law was passed — to the day of the newspaper’s last print issue, June 24, 2021.

They pointed to the English version of the publication, claiming that Lai submitted it for the purpose of asking foreign forces to impose sanctions or to be hostile to Hong Kong or China. They said that Lai was the mastermind of the plot and that the Six acted to carry out the plans. They added that after the security law was enacted, “Apple Daily” condemned the legislation as an “evil law” and called for resistance.

Hong Kong police officers escort Cheung Kim-hung, center, CEO and CEO of Next Digital Ltd, at Apple Daily’s Hong Kong headquarters. Six former Apple Daily executives pleaded guilty to complicity on November 22, 2022, under a national security law that imprisoned most dissenting voices in mainland China.
(AP Photo/Kin Cheung, file)

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

After hearing their defenses and the prosecution’s case, a Supreme Court judge convicted the six. Their sentences will be issued after Lai’s trial.

Among the spectators were local journalists and former Apple Daily employees, and some waved to the defendants before and after the hearing.

APPLE DAILY: Police raid HK offices of pro-democracy paper, arrest arrests

Police seized hard drives and laptops as evidence in a raid on the Apple Daily offices in June 2021, sending shockwaves through the city’s media. The arrests of the newspaper’s top executives, editors, and journalists, as well as a $2.3 million asset freeze, led to the cessation of its operations. It sold one million copies of its final version.

Hong Kong fell more than 60 places to 148th in Reporters Without Borders’ latest global press freedom index released in May. The media watchdog cited the closure of Apple Daily and Stand News, a buzzy online news outlet that gained popularity during protests in 2019 but was forced to shut down during the ongoing crackdown.

The organization also said press freedom in the city had experienced an “unprecedented setback” since the introduction of the security law, which was “used as a pretext to silence independent voices” in the name of combating national security crimes.

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Separately, nine people were found guilty of rioting during a violent protest in October 2019 in another Hong Kong court on Tuesday. They were among thousands of residents arrested for their role in mass protests three years ago.

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