Breakingviews - Hong Kong crackdown means business

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(The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are their own.)

HONG KONG (Reuters Breakingviews) - Apple Daily, a pro-democracy Hong Kong tabloid published by Next Digital, could be effectively bankrupted in the name of national security. Founder Jimmy Lai, who’s being honoured with a press freedom award, already sits in prison for attending unauthorised protests. Numerous other top executives also have been arrested.

There are two causes for concern. First, the National Security Law appears to be being applied retroactively to articles and behaviour prior to its enactment. So while Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam’s administration may try to reassure about press freedom, it cannot credibly promise that future laws won’t punish behaviour that’s legal today. Second, crippling commercial sanctions – in the form of blocked bank accounts and frozen assets – are being imposed before verdicts have been reached.

In mainland China, Alibaba founder Jack Ma may be “lying low” now, but it hasn’t stopped the companies he founded from being punished for things he said. The Apple Daily crackdown is bad news for the entire business community. (By Pete Sweeney)

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(SIGN UP FOR BREAKINGVIEWS EMAIL ALERTS: | Editing by Jeffrey Goldfarb and Katrina Hamlin)

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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