By Sharon Abratique and Pak Yiu
HONG KONG, Jun 24 (.) – UN Human Rights Chief Michelle Bachelet on Thursday pointed to the “negative consequences” Apple Daily owner Jimmy Lai suffered for exercising his rights, criticizing the arrest. of the tycoon while his pro-democracy tabloid printed its latest edition.
The Apple Daily closed Thursday, forced to end its 26-year existence amid a national security crackdown that froze company funds. Its closure sparked meandering queues of hundreds of loyal readers at stalls across the city.
Lai, its owner and staunch critic of Beijing, has been in jail since December for unauthorized demonstrations during the massive pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong in 2019 and faces national security charges.
Speaking via video link at the Asia Publishers Society’s 2021 press awards ceremony in Hong Kong, Bachelet said the new national security law is leading journalists to “self-censor” to avoid entering into collision with “vaguely formulated offenses.”
In prerecorded comments, he singled out Lai and the award-winning Maria Ressa in the Philippines, whose Rappler website has put President Rodrigo Duterte under strict scrutiny and who was convicted of defamation last year.
“Maria Ressa and Jimmy Lai have faced negative consequences for exercising their fundamental human rights,” Bachelet said.
Anticipating strong demand for its final print run, it printed 1 million copies, or more than 10 times the usual. Emotions soared Thursday among supporters of the newspaper, which has faced relentless pressure since Lai was arrested in August 2020.
“I haven’t been able to sleep well in the last few nights,” said Tse, a 60-year-old former medical worker, as she stood in line in front of a newspaper vendor. “I hope that journalists can remain true to their ideas and continue to work hard.”
(Reporting by Sharon Abratique; written by Anne Marie Roantree; edited in Spanish by Carlos Serrano)