The death of the Apple Daily leaves a shadow over the free press in Hong Kong

Hong Kong residents were the mourners and the city’s newsstands were the funeral parlour this week as residents across the city lined up to buy the latest edition of the Apple Daily.

The pro-democracy newspaper has been a nuisance to city authorities for decades. The company was forced to Nearby After officials froze her assets and Senior journalists arrested Under the sweeping national security law that Beijing imposed on the territory after pro-democracy protests in 2019.

Residents came out in droves to buy a copy of the definitive edition—Apple Daily printed 1 million copies instead of the regular 150,000—in a quiet resistance process. “Hong Kong people are really sad, and that’s the only support I can give,” said Deborah, a 50-year-old teacher who queued in the rain to buy a copy Thursday morning.

The Apple Daily was a powerful symbol of the underlying opposition still raging beneath the city’s surface. Analysts say the closure of the Chinese-language newspaper and website indicates how authorities are using the National Security Act to stifle Hong Kong’s free media.

The newspaper that challenged power

Apple Daily is founded by Jimmy Lai, a 73-year-old businessman, made his fortune in the apparel and retail industry before launching the newspaper in 1995.

Beijing promised Hong Kong a high degree of autonomy for 50 years after the city was handed over from British sovereignty to Chinese sovereignty in 1997, including freedom of the press and expression.

Lai has long been one of the city’s most vocal critics of China. when Li BingLai, the Chinese leader most associated with the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989, justified the crackdown on student protestors, was furious. He called it a “tortoise egg” in an opinion piece, a Chinese insult similar to calling someone a “son of a bitch,” and has been an enemy of Beijing ever since.

Apple Daily founder Jimmy Lai was convicted and jailed for participating in a protest and faces a number of separate charges © AFP via Getty Images

The Apple Daily mixed celebrity gossip with serious news and investigations. The newspaper was one of the few large print publications on Chinese soil willing to criticize local and central government leaders and their influence rippling through the city’s media. “The company has also sponsored several senior reporters,” said Ronson Chan, president of the Hong Kong Journalists Association.

The tabloid was not without its critics and was accused of sensationalism, sexism and racism. Until the early 2000s, she ran a column under the pseudonym “Fat Dragon”, which was peppered with criticism of local bureaucrats with reviews of brothels. More recently, she has been accused of racial profiling in her coverage of the city’s ethnic minorities and mainland Chinese residents.

The Apple Daily has been hugely popular, but the newspaper and Lai have faced a firestorm since the 2019 protests, which the company has been accused of encouraging. The tabloid printed large posters that were waved during the demonstrations and criticized the authorities and Carrie Lam, the city’s chief executive.

“Apple Daily support has become a certain kind of activity,” said Rose Lukio, associate professor of journalism at Hong Kong Baptist University. This purchase has included Posts in Next Digital, parent group.

She was “not only writing about the social movement, but mobilizing the movement as well. This prompted the authorities to use more stringent methods of repression.”

Tim, the 21-year-old student, started reading the newspaper due to its coverage of the demonstrations. “During the protests in particular, it became clear that we need Apple Daily in our lives,” he said. “He pushed my political views.”

Authorities accused the Apple Daily of being a fan of pro-democracy protests in 2019 and imposed a strict national security law to quell dissent.

Apple Daily has been accused by the authorities of being an advocate of pro-democracy protests in 2019 © AP

Analysts say the newspaper’s activist approach may have precipitated its demise.

was ly convicted This year due to his participation in a protest. He also faces separate charges, including conspiracy to collude with foreign forces under the National Security Act, and has been imprisoned. The maximum sentence is life imprisonment and many believe he will never be released again.

Among the suspended Apple Daily executives is Ryan Lu, the newspaper’s editor-in-chief, and an opinion writer using the pseudonym Li Bing. Hundreds of the newspaper’s journalists are unemployed and live in fear of reprisals.

said Ian Cheung, an associate professor at the National University of Singapore who studies authoritarianism in Asia.

“Apple Daily is a symbol of the more open and free-spirited ethos of news reporting that was once associated with Hong Kong . . . so its shutdown completely brings an end to that era.”

The authorities will continue to pressure

The death of the Apple Daily is seen as a victory for the authorities in Hong Kong and Beijing, but has been condemned by Western governments.

US President Joe Biden blamed the shutdown on “intense repression by Beijing” and called on the government to release the newspaper’s staff.

Michelle Bachelet, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, He said The National Security Act was “leading journalists to increase self-censorship.”

However, Lam accused Apple’s Daily of using its status as a media organization as a “protective cover,” saying: “We do not deal with news agencies or news reports, but rather acts that are suspected of endangering national security.”

Carrie Lam, chief executive of Hong Kong, said Apple’s Daily had put national security at risk. © Bloomberg

Beijing was particularly angry at the Apple Daily editorial, which police said encouraged governments to impose sanctions against the Hong Kong government and Chinese officials in the wake of the protests. Lay also endorsed Donald Trump’s hard-line approach to Beijing.

United State Penalties slapped On dozens of officials in Hong Kong and China, forcing Lam to stay “heaps of money” In her home where the banks were afraid to violate the procedures by making her a customer.

The rival newspapers were also unsympathetic. The Chinese-language newspaper, Ming Bao, accused the Apple Daily of “political mobilization” unbecoming of a traditional news organization. The front page of the South China Morning Post asked, “Was the Apple Daily a defender of liberties or a violation of national sovereignty?”

Many journalists believe that the authorities can extend their crackdown beyond Apple. Chris Young, a senior journalist at CitizenNews, a Hong Kong news organization, said the prosecutions had made reporters worried that their reports or interviews could leave them in jail. “Anything that looks like it could happen, that’s very worrying,” he said.

In the final hours in the Apple Daily newsroom, journalists were quick to report the end of the paper.

“There were colleagues crying, there were people taking pictures with each other, and some still worked hard until the last minute,” one reporter said.

Ingrid Tse, a 25-year-old journalist who had just joined the company, said reporters stayed in the office until 6 a.m. Thursday morning, drinking, eating and sympathizing.

When the last sheet of paper was sent out for printing, everyone gathered in the middle of the desk and shouted congratulations to the editors. “Even at this point I still can’t accept that it’s over,” she said.

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