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The Death of Free Speech in Hong Kong

In most liberal democracies, publications such as Hong Kong's Apple Daily are usually seen as the unfortunate price to be paid for the right to freedom of expression. But with mainland China tightening its control over the territory, the tabloid was a pillar of that freedom, and now it is gone.

NEW YORK – The Hong Kong newspaper Apple Daily has been forced to close. On the day it was shuttered, people queued to buy one last copy; a million were printed. The paper was doomed since last year, when China’s Communist government imposed a harsh National Security Law on Hong Kong. Its offices were raided by the police. Its journalists were threatened with violence. Its assets were frozen. Salaries could no longer be paid. Senior editors and a chief columnist were arrested.

The paper’s alleged crime was “collusion with foreign powers,” or as the former Chief Executive of Hong Kong, C.Y. Leung, crassly put it, “collusion with scum from foreign countries.” Its real crime was its highly critical coverage of the Communist Party of China, of the Hong Kong government, and of corrupt local tycoons and politicians ever since Jimmy Lai founded the paper in 1995.

Lai himself has already been in prison for almost a year, charged with fraud, collusion with foreign countries, and taking part in unlawful demonstrations. He could in theory be locked up for life.

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