On June 24, 2021, Apple DailyHong Kong’s largest Chinese-language opposition newspaper, was forced to close after police raided its premises and the government froze the assets of its parent company. A year later, seven former employees of the media, including its founder Jimmy Lai, are still being held and face life imprisonment (see full list below). To justify the lawsuits, the The government has compiled more than 150 articles, editorials and videos published by the media and allegedly “criminal” under the national security law.

Such legal harassment of former Apple Daily employees, a year after the media was forced to close, sends a chilling message to all Hong Kong-based journalistssays RSF East Asia bureau chief Cédric Alviani, who urges democracies toincrease pressure on the Beijing regime to drop the charges against the defendants and immediately release those kept in prison.

In 2021, RSF filed two appeals urging the United Nations to “take all necessary measures” to safeguard press freedom in Hong Kong and obtain the immediate release of the Apple Daily founder and RSF Press Freedom Prize Jimmy Lai.

In December, the Chinese regime also used the National Security Law as a pretext to shut down the Chinese language news site, Stand newswhile the climate of fear facing journalists in Hong Kong has led to at least five small media outlets shutting down, including the Independent News Agency FactWire Last week.

In a report titled The great backward step of journalism in Chinapublished in December 2021, RSF exposed the Chinese regime’s system of censorship and information control and the global threat it poses to press freedom and democracy.

Hong Kong, once a bastion of press freedom, fell from 80th place in 2021 to 148th place in RSF World Press Freedom Index 2022, marking the index’s biggest drop of the year. China itself ranks 175th out of 180 countries and territories assessed.

All seven Apple Daily staff members detained

Jimmy Lai, 74 years old, Media Founder

  • Held since: December 2020, and already sentenced to a total of 20 months in prison for four “unauthorized” demonstrations in 2019 and 2020.
  • charges: Six charges, ranging from “conspiracy to publish seditious publications” and “fraud” to “conspiracy to commit collusion with a foreign country or with outside elements”.
  • Maximum penalty: Life imprisonment

Cheung Kim-hung, 59, General director

  • Held since: June 17, 2021
  • charges: “conspiracy to commit collusion with a foreign country or with outside elements” and “conspiracy to publish a seditious publication”
  • Maximum penalty: Life imprisonment

Law Wai-kwong (Ryan Law), 47, Chief Editor

  • Held since: June 17, 2021
  • charges: “conspiracy to commit collusion with a foreign country or with outside elements” and “conspiracy to publish a seditious publication”
  • Maximum penalty: Life imprisonment

Lam Man-chung, 51 years old, Executive Editor

  • Held since: June 17, 2021
  • charges: “conspiracy to commit collusion with a foreign country or with outside elements” and “conspiracy to publish a seditious publication”
  • Maximum penalty: Life imprisonment

Chan Puiman, 51 years old, Associate Editor

  • Held since: July 21, 2021
  • charges: “conspiracy to commit collusion with a foreign country or with outside elements” and “conspiracy to publish a seditious publication”
  • Maximum penalty: Life imprisonment

Fung Wai-kong (aka Lo Fung), 57, Apple Daily (English) Editor/Editorial Editor

  • Held since: July 21, 2021
  • charges: “conspiracy to commit collusion with a foreign country or with outside elements” and “conspiracy to publish a seditious publication”
  • Maximum penalty: Life imprisonment

Yeung Ching-kee (alias Li Ping), 55, chief editorial writer

  • Held since: July 21, 2021
  • charges: “conspiracy to commit collusion with a foreign country or with outside elements” and “conspiracy to publish a seditious publication”
  • Maximum penalty: Life imprisonment
  • Maximum penalty: life imprisonment.