Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs Marc Garneau issued a statement Wednesday condemning China’s National Security Law following the closure announcement of Apple Daily, one of Hong Kong’s few remaining independent media outlets.
“The forced closure of the newspaper, Apple Daily, as a result of charges under the National Security Law for Hong Kong is a significant blow to freedom of the press and freedom of speech in Hong Kong, and makes it clear that the powers under the National Security Law are being used as a tool to suppress media freedom and punish dissidents,” Garneau stated.
In recent years, the governments in Beijing and Hong Kong have continually tried to repudiate the Sino-British Joint Declaration, which drafted the Hong Kong Basic Law, a “mini-constitution” that guarantees the region’s democratic system and capitalist economy for 50 years—a principle often described as the “One country, two systems” policy.
Beijing’s adoption of the draconian national security law in June 2020 is widely interpreted as having effectively nullified the principle. Two of Apple Daily’s directors are now facing collusion charges punishable by life imprisonment under the national security law, while the paper’s founder, Jimmy Lai, is currently detained and waiting for a separate national security trial.
“Canada is a steadfast supporter of the One Country, Two Systems principle and Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy,” Garneau stated. “The ouster of a major media organization under the National Security Law significantly degrades these principles, guaranteed under the Sino-British Joint Declaration.”
“These freedoms are universal human rights guaranteed under Hong Kong’s Basic Law, and are in line with international standards,” Garneau said.
Apple Daily was founded in 1995—two years before Britain handed over Hong Kong to the communist-led People’s Republic of China. The media outlet started out as a tabloid known for reporting celebrity scandals, but had also upheld democratic values.
A statement from Apple Daily’s parent company Next Media said the newspaper’s print and online edition cease operation at midnight June 23.
With reporting by Frank Fang