The editor of the Global Times, a newspaper run by the Chinese Communist Party, accused President Joe Biden of hypocrisy after he excoriated China over the closure of Hong Kong’s Apple Daily.
Last issue of Apple Daily arrive at a newspaper booth in Hong Kong, early Thursday, June 24, 2021. … [+] Hong Kong’s pro-democracy Apple Daily newspaper will stop publishing Thursday, following last week’s arrest of five editors and executives and the freezing of $2.3 million in assets under the city’s year-old national security law. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)
“What about Trump’s Twitter account?” and “What about Parler?” Global Times editor-in-chief Hu Xijin said Thursday, responding to a statement from Biden criticizing the shutdown of the pro-democracy newspaper.
Xijin was referring to Twitter’s decision to ban Trump over the president’s role inciting the riot at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, and the actions Amazon and Apple took to restrict access to Parler, a social media app popular among conservatives, in the days after the Capitol attack.
Trump and his supporters have a “right to freedom of expression,” Xijin added, accusing the U.S. government of “denying basic liberties and assaulting democratic institutions and processes,” without going into more detail.
“Those who lament closure of Apple Daily today, please also call on Twitter to reinstate Trump’s account,” Xijin wrote. “Otherwise, what you show is not defense of press freedom, but inconsistent logic and insufficient wisdom.”
Xijin’s criticism misses an important distinction: Trump and Parler were restricted by private companies over their behavior, while Apple Daily was effectively shut down by the government. The newspaper, Hong Kong’s largest pro-democracy publication, announced it would close its doors on Wednesday, after its assets were frozen under China’s new national security law and several of its journalists arrested. The new law gives the government wide latitude to clamp down on political freedom, and led officials to arrest Apple Daily founder Jimmy Lai last year.
“It is a sad day for media freedom in Hong Kong and around the world,” Biden said in a statement Thursday. “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.” Biden called on Beijing to “stop targeting the independent press and release the journalists and media executives that have been detained.”
Earlier this month, the Biden administration called on Nigeria to reverse its ban on Twitter after the government blocked the platform in retaliation for the removal of a tweet posted by the Nigerian president. Trump, angry about his own ban from the platform, cheered Nigeria’s move.