The United States and 20 other nations issued a joint statement Saturday condemning Beijing over its closure of Hong Kong pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily.
The group of 21 governments issued the statement through the Media Freedom Coalition a partnership of countries formed in 2019 to advocate for media freedom and the safety of journalists.
The coalition expressed strong concerns about the forced closure of the Apple Daily newspaper, and the arrest of its staff by the Hong Kong authorities.
The statement was signed by the governments of Australia, Austria, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Netherlands, New Zealand, Slovakia, Switzerland, United Kingdom, and the U.S.
Apple Daily was forced to close late last month after five of its editors and executives were arrested and charged with colluding with a foreign country, violating a recently-imposed national security law.
Authorities pointed to over 30 articles they said played a role in encouraging foreign governments to impose sanctions. It was the first time the law had been used to suppress journalists over something they published.
The governments said using the law to suppress journalists is a serious and negative step which undermines Hong Kongs high degree of autonomy and the rights and freedoms of people in Hong Kong.
The action against Apple Daily comes against a backdrop of increased media censorship in Hong Kong, including pressure on the independence of the public broadcaster and recent legal action by the Hong Kong authorities against journalists, the group said.
The governments also expressed concern about the possible introduction of new legislation that they say could eliminate scrutiny and criticism by the media of the governments policies and actions.
Freedom of the press has been central to Hong Kongs success and international reputation over many years. Hong Kong and mainland Chinese authorities should fully respect and uphold this important right, in line with Chinas international legal obligations, the statement said.
President BidenJoe BidenCawthorn: Biden door-to-door vaccine strategy could be used to ‘take’ guns, BiblesTrump Jr. calls on Manchin, Tester to oppose Biden’s ATF nomineeOn The Money: Biden fires head of Social Security Administration | IRS scandals haunt Biden push for more fundingMORE previously condemned China over Beijing’s closure of Apple Daily, saying the nation insisted on wielding its power to suppress independent media and silence dissenting views.