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Ex-editor of shuttered 'Apple Daily' apologizes for ‘fake news'

Pro-democracy daily was the first Hong Kong media outlet to shut after Beijing imposed National Security Law in 2020

 An Apple Daily employee works in the printing room after the last edition of the newspaper is printed in Hong Kong early on June 24, 2021

An Apple Daily employee works in the printing room after the last edition of the newspaper is printed in Hong Kong early on June 24, 2021. (Photo: AFP)

Published: October 19, 2023 11:45 AM GMT

Updated: October 19, 2023 12:15 PM GMT

The former editor-in-chief of Hong Kong’s now-defunct pro-democracy Apple Daily has issued a public apology for allegedly publishing “false news reports” that claimed two Chinese businessmen were under investigation in Taiwan for espionage.

In a press statement published on Oct. 17, Ryan Law admitted to not doing any checks before publishing the reports and apologized for the mistake, Hong Kong Free Press (HKFP) reported on Oct. 18.

“I, ‘Apple Daily’ and/or ‘Hong Kong Apple Daily’ Facebook Page have never made any prior verification, investigation, or citation before publishing such information,” Law said.

He further apologized for the “completely incorrect and seriously untrue report” and promised to not “publish any related or similar information directly and/or indirectly.”

The reports published by Apple Daily between Nov. 23 and Dec. 7, 2019, had alleged Xian Xin and his wife Kung Ching of espionage while they were under investigation for the same charges in Taiwan.

Xiang is the chair of China Innovation Investment Limited – a Hong Kong-listed company and Kung, is an alternative board member at the same company.

They were initially arrested at Taoyuan International Airport in November 2019 as they were about to fly to Hong Kong.

Their arrests came after Wang Liqiang, a self-professed Chinese spy-turned-asylum seeker in Australia, named Xiang’s investment firm in allegations about Chinese efforts to influence Taiwanese elections and interfere in Hong Kong affairs, according to Taiwan’s Central News Agency (CNA).

There were no charges leveled against the duo. However, a travel ban was placed on them as they were awaiting trial in a separate money laundering case that prosecutors brought against them in April 2021.

The Taipei District Court had cleared them of all charges citing insufficient evidence.

The prosecution contested the ruling in Taiwan’s High Court which upheld the judgment but retained the travel ban for another eight months.

Law, who has been detained since June 2021 over a national security case, published the apology in Ming Pao newspaper days after the travel ban on Xin and Kung was lifted.

Law is among the six Apple Daily staffers who had pleaded guilty to the charges of committing collusion with foreign forces under the draconian Beijing-imposed National Security Law last November.

Reportedly, Law is scheduled to testify against the newspaper’s founder and a Catholic business tycoon Jimmy Lai during a trial scheduled for December.

Lai, a top pro-democracy advocate, was arrested in early August 2020 and has been in jail since. He was further accused of fraud related to a lease violation at the Apple Daily’s headquarters and was formally charged in December 2020.

He was found guilty of fraud last December and jailed for five years and nine months.

The closure of Apple Daily was the first of its kind in Hong Kong in which authorities cited media articles as potentially violating national security law.

The newspaper released its final edition on June 24, 2021, just days after hundreds of police officers raided its newsroom and senior executives were arrested.

According to HKFP, over 1,000 journalists have lost their jobs, and many have emigrated to other countries.

Press freedom in Hong Kong, which was at a commendable 73rd spot among 180 nations in 2018, has dropped to a dismal 140th position in 2023, according to Reporters Without Borders.

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