Sen. Ben Sasse has introduced a bill to award the Congressional Gold Medal to journalists and executives from Hong Kong pro-democracy newspaper, Apple Daily, which ceased operations Wednesday amid mounting pressure from the Chinese government.
“The men and women who ran Apple Daily are heroes,” Mr. Sasse, Nebraska Republican, said in a release. “Let’s be clear about why they just ran their last issue: Their defense of free thought and speech made them scary to the Chinese Communist Party.”
The paper was subject to multiple Chinese government raids in which police seized journalists’ computers, froze assets, and arrested several top editors amid prolonged anti-government demonstrations in Hong Kong.
The Democracy in Hong Kong Congressional Gold Medal Act specifically names Apple Daily founder Lai Chee-ying; executives Cheung Kim-hung and Chow Tat-kuen; senior editors Law Wai-kwong, Cheung Chi-wai and Chan Pui-man, and senior opinion writer Yeung Ching-kee.
The award also would recognize other staffers who have worked for the newspaper “in recognition of their commitment to freedom and democracy in Hong Kong in the face of the tyranny of the Chinese Communist Party.”
“They courageously stood up to kangaroo courts and told the truth,” Mr. Sasse said. “The Apple Daily journalists exposed Chairman Xi [Jinping] as a man afraid of the people he seeks to hold down. The free world owes them our gratitude and the least we can do is award them the Congressional Gold Medal.”
Mr. Lai was arrested last August on charges brought forward under a widely criticized National Security Law that had been enacted recently in Hong Kong. Apple Daily’s newsroom was raided following his arrest, and he was sentenced to 14 months in prison for his support of democracy in Hong Kong.
Police arrested Apple Daily’s other executives and editors in a subsequent raid earlier this month. Police also seized computers and froze $2.3 million in company assets during the raid.
Mr. Yeung was arrested Wednesday, the same day that Apple Daily announced it would cease publication after 26 years.
The announcement was largely seen as a blow to free speech and a sign of the Chinese government’s strengthening clinch in Hong Kong.
The White House issued a statement Thursday condemning Beijing for its crackdown on free speech.
“People in Hong Kong have the right to freedom of the press,” the statement read. “Instead, Beijing is denying basic liberties and assaulting Hong Kong’s autonomy and democratic institutions and processes, inconsistent with its international obligations. The United States will not waver in our support of people in Hong Kong and all those who stand up for the basic freedoms all people deserve.”
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