A tide of arrests, trials, and sentences are drowning the last remaining vestiges of freedom in Hong Kong. Efforts to impose totalitarian control in the city by the CCP were bolstered by the enforcement of Hong Kong’s national security law since June 2020.

On Monday, November 21, media reported that five former members of the pro-democracy media outlet Apple Daily, and the CEO of its parent company, Next Digital, pleaded guilty to charges of “conspiracy to collude with a foreign country or outside elements to endanger national security.” The defendants are in danger of being sentenced to life imprisonment.

The charges relate to ties between the former members and Apple Daily founder Jimmy Lai, a pro-democracy publisher.

Lai was arrested in 2020 on three alleged violations of the new national security law for “collusion with foreign forces” but was released on bail. However, in late October, the prosecution indicted him again, and this time on unsubstantiated allegations of fraud. 

According to prosecutors, the accused former members were complicit in publishing 161 news articles with ”objectionable content,” which were allegedly prepared to influence public opinion. Apple Daily media outlet is accused of making “seditious statements against the central and Hong Kong governments” and calling “the public to participate in protests.” 

Apple Daily was last published in June 2021, shortly after police conducted their second newsroom raid and arrested senior executives.

The new national security law imposed by the Chinese regime has been strongly contested by human rights experts and the Hong Kong population. Despite several protests in the city failed to stop enforcement of the law, and, on the contrary, exposed the protesters to “legal abuse.” Now, authorities have broad powers to interpret the law, even to the point of overriding existing Hong Kong legislation. 

Since its implementation in June 2020, at least 183 people, including former legislators, journalists, and activists have been arrested for violating this law, and hundreds more for participating in the protests. 

Steven Mosher, president of the Population Research Institute and an expert on China-related issues, commented on the new law and what happened to the former Apple Daily members to LifeSiteNews, “Hong Kong’s national security law is written so broadly and its punishments are so draconian that it is clear that its real purpose is to terrorize the people of that great city.”

He went on to say, “This case, and that of Jimmy Lai, mark the definitive end of the rule of law that the British left during the 1997 handover.”

Mosher concluded, “The people of Hong Kong now live under the same brutal one-party dictatorship that their cousins across the border have endured for more than 70 years.”

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