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AP PHOTOS: Hong Kong pro-democracy newspaper under pressure

A year ago, the pro-democracy Apple Daily newspaper published a front-page headline saying Hong Kong's governing principle of “one country, two systems is dead."

On Thursday, the newspaper was facing its greatest peril.

Three top editors and two senior executives were arrested under Hong Kong's new national security law on suspicion of colluding with a foreign country or external elements to endanger national security. Authorities cited as the basis for the arrests several Apple Daily articles that called on foreign countries to impose sanctions on China and Hong Kong.

Hong Kong media tycoon Jimmy Lai, center, who founded local newspaper Apple Daily, is arrested by police officers at his home in Hong Kong on April 18, 2020. A newspaper that has advocated for greater democracy in Hong Kong came under further pressure Thursday, June 17, 2021, with the arrests of three top editors and two senior executives. (AP PhotoVincent Yu, File)

The newspaper with a history of advocating for democracy in Hong Kong has long criticized and condemned the local government and the ruling Communist Party in Beijing for tightening control over the territory.

The tabloid's headline on July 1, 2020, the anniversary of Hong Kong's 1997 return to Chinese control from colonial British rule, referred to China's promise that Hong Kong would maintain its civil freedoms and distinction from the mainland for 50 years.

Press freedom advocates see the security law as an infringement on free speech and part of a broader crackdown on dissent following mass anti-government protests that shook the city in 2019.

Police officers stand guard outside Apple Daily headquarters as Hong Kong media tycoon Jimmy Lai, who founded local newspaper Apple Daily, is arrested by police at his home in Hong Kong on Aug. 10, 2020. The Apple Daily editors and executives were detained Thursday, June 17, 2021, under a national security law that took effect last year.(AP PhotoVincent Yu, File)

Assets connected to Apple Daily have been seized and trading in stock of its publishing company, Next Digital, were halted.

The newspaper's founder, Jimmy Lai, is imprisoned for participating in the 2019 protests and faces multiple other charges.

A huge logo of Apple Daily is displayed at the lift lobby outside the news room of Apple Daily Monday, April 26, 2021. A year ago, the pro-democracy Apple Daily newspaper published a front-page headline saying Hong Kong's governing principle of “one country, two systems is dead." On Thursday, June 17, 2021, the newspaper was facing its greatest peril. Three top editors and two senior executives were arrested under Hong Kong's new national security law. (AP PhotoVincent Yu)

An Apple Daily front page showing the number of a march is displayed at the news room of Apple Daily Monday, April 26, 2021. A newspaper that has advocated for greater democracy in Hong Kong came under further pressure Thursday, June 17, 2021, with the arrests of three top editors and two senior executives.(AP PhotoVincent Yu)

A signing broad of stuffs are displayed at the lift lobby outside the news room of Apple Daily Monday, April 26, 2021, in Hong Kong. A newspaper that has advocated for greater democracy in Hong Kong came under further pressure Thursday, June 17, 2021, with the arrests of three top editors and two senior executives. (AP PhotoVincent Yu)

Reporters attend an editorial meeting at the news room of Apple Daily Monday, April 26, 2021, in Hong Kong. A year ago, the pro-democracy Apple Daily newspaper published a front-page headline saying Hong Kong's governing principle of “one country, two systems is dead." On Thursday, June 17, 2021, the newspaper was facing its greatest peril. Three top editors and two senior executives were arrested under Hong Kong's new national security law. (AP PhotoVincent Yu)

Reporters work at the news room of Apple Daily Monday, April 26, 2021, in Hong Kong. A year ago, the pro-democracy Apple Daily newspaper published a front-page headline saying Hong Kong's governing principle of “one country, two systems is dead." On Thursday, June 17, 2021, the newspaper was facing its greatest peril. Three top editors and two senior executives were arrested under Hong Kong's new national security law. (AP PhotoVincent Yu)

Layouts of Apple Daily are displayed outside the office of an editor at the news room Monday, April 26, 2021, in Hong Kong. The Apple Daily editors and executives were detained Thursday, June 17, under a national security law that took effect last year. (AP PhotoVincent Yu)

Two senior editors take rest at the terrace outside the news room of Apple Daily, Monday, April 26, 2021, in Hong Kong. A newspaper that has advocated for greater democracy in Hong Kong came under further pressure this week with the arrests of three top editors and two senior executives. (AP PhotoVincent Yu)

Reporters work at the news room of Apple Daily Monday, April 26, 2021 in Hong Kong. A newspaper that has advocated for greater democracy in Hong Kong came under further pressure Thursday, June 17, 2021, with the arrests of three top editors and two senior executives. (AP PhotoVincent Yu)

An Apple Daily poster showing a printing of the protesters is displayed at the news room of Apple Daily Monday, April 26, 2021 in Hong Kong. The Apple Daily editors and executives were detained Thursday, June 17, under a national security law that took effect last year. (AP PhotoVincent Yu)

A photo showing Jimmy Lai, right, the founder of Apple Daily is displayed at the news room of Apple Daily Monday, April 26, 2021, in Hong Kong. A newspaper that has advocated for greater democracy in Hong Kong came under further pressure Thursday, June 17, 2021, with the arrests of three top editors and two senior executives.(AP PhotoVincent Yu)

A worker packs copies of Apple Daily's July 1, 2020, edition seen with its front page title of "Draconian law is effective, one country two system is dead" at the newspaper's printing house in Hong Kong Wednesday, July 1, 2020. A newspaper that has advocated for greater democracy in Hong Kong came under further pressure Thursday, June 17, 2021, with the arrests of three top editors and two senior executives.(AP PhotoVincent Yu, File)

Copies of Apple Daily's July 1, 2020, edition are seen with its front page title of "Draconian law is effective, one country two system is dead" at the newspaper's printing house in Hong Kong on July 1, 2020. The Apple Daily editors and executives were detained Thursday, June 17, under a national security law that took effect last year. Among its crimes are colluding with a foreign country or external elements to endanger national security. (AP PhotoVincent Yu, File)

Copies of Apple Daily newspaper with front pages featuring Hong Kong media tycoon Jimmy Lai, are displayed for sale at a newsstand in Hong Kong Tuesday, Aug. 11, 2020. The Apple Daily editors and executives were detained Thursday, June 17, under a national security law that took effect last year. Among its crimes are colluding with a foreign country or external elements to endanger national security. (AP PhotoKin Cheung, File)