U.S. President Joe Biden on Thursday slammed Beijing for suppressing independent media and silencing dissenting views after Hong Kong's pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily folded under pressure from Chinese and Hong Kong authorities.
"It is a sad day for media freedom in Hong Kong and around the world," Biden said in a statement, adding, "Intensifying repression by Beijing has reached such a level that Apple Daily, a much-needed bastion of independent journalism in Hong Kong, has now ceased publishing."
Emphasizing that the act of journalism is not a crime, Biden urged China to stop targeting the independent press and release the journalists and media executives who have been detained.
The latest development came as China has been tightening its grip over Hong Kong by enacting a national security law in June last year to crack down on what Beijing views as subversive activity in the territory.
Before ending its 26-year history, the outspoken paper, which has long been a target of the authorities over its liberal stances, had its assets frozen and its senior editors and executives arrested under the sweeping law.
"Independent media play an invaluable role in resilient and prosperous societies. Journalists are truth-tellers who hold leaders accountable and keep information flowing freely -- and that is needed now more than ever in Hong Kong, and in places around the world where democracy is under threat," Biden said.
The United States will continue to support the people of Hong Kong and all those who stand up for basic freedoms, he added.
Under China's "one country, two systems" policy, Hong Kong was promised it would enjoy the rights and freedoms of a semiautonomous region for 50 years after the former British colony's return to Chinese rule in 1997.