Apple Daily Publishes Final Issue Amid Tears, Applause, and Fears for Hong Kong’s Future

Following last week’s arrest of five Apple Daily executives on national security charges and the freezing of the company’s bank accounts, Hong Kong’s last pro-democracy newspaper published its final issue early Thursday morning with a million copy run, before shutting down its social media accounts. Ryan Law, the chief editor, and Cheung Kim-hung, the CEO of parent company Next Digital, have been denied bail, and the founder Jimmy Lai is currently in jail and faces additional national security charges. An op-ed writer for the paper, Yeung Ching-Kei—who wrote under the pen name Li Ping—was detained Wednesday “on suspicion of conspiracy to collude with foreign forces.” The New York Times’ Austin Ramzy and Tiffany May report on the paper’s enforced closure:

The forced closure of Apple Daily struck a blow to the unique character of the city itself. The paper churned out stories on celebrity gossip and lurid scandals, as well as hard-hitting political news and analysis, always with a decidedly antigovernment slant and an irreverence antithetical to what the Communist Party would allow in the mainland. Even in the face of advertising boycotts, assaults on its journalists and firebomb attacks, the paper persevered and thrived, remaining one of the most widely read newspapers in the city, living proof of the freedoms Hong Kong enjoyed despite its return to Chinese rule in 1997.

When antigovernment protests erupted in Hong Kong in 2019, posing the greatest political challenge to Beijing in decades, Apple Daily was an unabashed supporter of the movement, even printing placards for demonstrators. But when Beijing moved to quash resistance to its rule in the city with a powerful and sweeping national security law that squeezed space for dissent, Apple Daily quickly became a key target.

“Apple Daily showed we have a vibrant society, with freedom of expression and freedom of the press,” said Emily Lau, a former pro-democracy lawmaker. “But after tomorrow, Apple Daily will be no more.”

“It shows that when the Chinese government decides to act, it can be very swift and sometimes exceedingly brutal,” Ms. Lau said. [Source]

Supporters of the paper and of press freedom more generally marked the moment at local newsstands, at the Apple Daily offices, and on social media.

International human rights and press freedom groups spoke out in defense of Apple Daily and of free speech, including the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Hong Kong, the Committee to Protect Journalists—which also announced it will honor imprisoned founder Jimmy Lai with the Gwen Ifill Press Freedom Award—Human Rights Watch, and PEN International, which called the closure “a death knell for independent media.”

Read past coverage of Apple Daily, via CDT.


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