AP PHOTOS: Hong Kong pro-democracy newspaper under pressure

HONG KONG (AP) — 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.

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.

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.