A human rights activist has said that the Chinese Communist Party’s “killing” of a pro-democracy newspaper in Hong Kong has “serious implications” for religious liberty.
Benedict Rogers, the co-founder of Hong Kong Watch, told CNA that the suppression of Apple Daily, founded by Catholic billionaire Jimmy Lai, was not simply a blow to press freedom.
“The killing of Apple Daily by the Chinese Communist Party regime represents the death of media freedom in Hong Kong,” he said via email.
“This is yet another chapter in the regime’s dismantling of freedom itself in Hong Kong, in all its forms, in total, flagrant and repeated violation of an international treaty, the Sino-British Joint Declaration, which is registered at the United Nations and valid until 2047.”
Rogers said that the episode had “serious implications for religious freedom” for two main reasons.
“Firstly, as freedom as a whole is dismantled, inevitably religious freedom, as a component of freedom and a basic human right, will be undermined. You cannot separate religious freedom from other human rights,” he stressed.
“Secondly, and more specifically, Apple Daily was founded and owned by Jimmy Lai, a devout Catholic, and was a constant champion of religious freedom. I know from my own experience as a weekly contributor to Apple Daily that the newspaper gave me a freedom to write about faith and religion in a way that no other secular, daily, mass-market publication anywhere in the world has done.”
Hong Kongers queued for hours on the morning of June 24 to buy the final edition of Apple Daily. The newspaper said it was obliged to close after police froze $2.3 million of its assets and arrested five senior editors and executives under the stringent national security law, enacted in June 2020.
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