Following Wednesday's unprecedented crackdown against Hong Kong media, specifically the forced permanent closure of Hong Kong's 26-year long running Apple Daily newspaper under the far-reaching China-backed 'national security law', two leading US senators are urging the White House to unleash more sanctions in response to the crackdown.
In a letter to President Biden on Thursday Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa), ranking member of the Senate Banking Committee, and Sen. Chris Van Hollen, (D-Md), a committee member, wrote that the recently passed Hong Kong Autonomy Act requires the US secretary of state to identify and take action against any foreign person or foreign businesses "materially contributing" to the "inability of the people of Hong Kong to enjoy the freedom of assembly, speech, press, or independent rule of law."
The legislation in effect since it was passed last year requires mandatory sanctions on those identified to Congress as suppressing these freedoms in Hong Kong.
The pro-democracy tabloid, owned by incarcerated media tycoon Jimmy Lai, will close because its assets have been frozen and many of its staff arrested after some 500 police raided their offices, making it impossible for the paper to continue publishing.
The paper's owner, Lai, is facing charges of violating the new Beijing-imposed national security law. He has remained in custody even as the US and UK have protested that they are "deeply concerned" about his condition.
"It seems very likely that the breathtaking crackdown on Jimmy Lai and Apple Daily involves numerous foreign persons to whom Section 5 of the Hong Kong Autonomy Act applies," the Senators' letter stated.
"We urge your administration to comprehensively enforce the Hong Kong Autonomy Act in the immediate wake of the injustice imposed upon Jimmy Lai and the forced closure of Apple Daily," it said.
The Senators wrote further: "These orders solidify the impression of many that the rule of law is no more in Hong Kong."
Beijing must stop targeting the press. Independent media play an invaluable role in resilient and prosperous societies. Journalism is not a crime. https://t.co/tbVvpqbr62— Ned Price (@StateDeptSpox) June 24, 2021
Indeed as we reported earlier in the week, police went so far as to declare the paper's newsroom a "crime scene", barring workers from entering, in the first case of the new national security law being used against journalists. And likely more such hugely alarming instances are on the horizon.