Press freedom in Hong Kong has come under severe pressure since the enactment of the Beijing-imposed National Security Law last year. This June, the closure of Apple Daily became the final nail in the coffin. Now, with pro-democracy politicians in the city being arrested or resigning en masse, many wonder if there will ever again be voices of opposition in Hong Kong. Join us tonight as we look at the events that led to the final print edition of Apple Daily on June 23, and talk to those who look to the future in a city shrouded in darkness.
On June 23, 2021, Hong Kong tabloid Apple Daily announced that the next day’s paper would be its last. In the afternoon following the announcement, readers of the paper braved heavy rain to stand outside the company’s building and give staff sunflowers as a show of support.
By the evening, more people had arrived outside the Apple Daily building. They shouted slogans and urged the paper to press on.
The cheering seemed endless, and inside the building, reporters toiled at their stations to the end, painstakingly preparing the paper’s last edition. The front-page headline was a solemn farewell to the people of Hong Kong.
On its last day, Apple Daily printed 10 times its usual run – 10 million copies, for a city of 7 million people.
The paper wasn’t delivered until late into the night. Huge lines of people formed in from of newsstands, stretching from one block to the next.
Hong Kong resident
This is Hong Kong people’s last newspaper. Even in 50 or 100 years from now, there won’t be another paper for Hong Kong’s people, as this one was.
Hong Kong resident
Freedom of speech had become restricted. Many of the city’s residents feel this pressure. However, for those working at Apple Daily, this pressure and fear is definitely a thousand times, even ten thousand times, what we feel. Just thinking about it distresses me greatly.
Next Digital occupies an important space in Hong Kong’s media. Yet in just a few short months, the Hong Kong government was able to tear down this media giant of 26 years.
On June 30, 2020 China’s National Security Law for Hong Kong was formally enacted. The new law took aim at behavior seen by Beijing as subversion of state power, Hong Kong separatist activity, terror acts and collusion with foreign powers. Unlike other laws in Hong Kong, National Security Law cases can only be presided over by judges selected by the city’s chief executive. The highest penalty for violating the law is life imprisonment, and suspects may be tried in Chinese courts.
Taiwan Society of International Law
Simply put, Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam can appoint a judge to establish a trial in cases involving the National Security Law. In any normal democratic country this would be considered unreasonable, but in drafting the National Security Law the Chinese Communist Party intentionally designed it this way. Empowering the chief executive to directly set up a trial essentially means that there is no separation between the judiciary and the administration — there is no way to have an independent judiciary.
Just over a month after the National Security Law was enacted, the Hong Kong Government set its sights on the press. On August 10, 2020 the offices of Next Digital were raided, and high-level staff members including Next Digital founder Jimmy Lai were arrested. The suspects were charged with collusion with foreign powers.
Then, on June 17, 2021, another 500 police officers descended upon Apple Daily. They confiscated reporters’ computers and arrested executives Royston Chow and Cheung Kim-hung.
Shortly after that, the police froze the assets of three companies under the umbrella of Next Digital, and ordered banks not to handle transactions for Next Digital. Business partners that wanted to provide funds were unable to make a deposit, leaving the company in desperate straits. On the morning of June 23, the company announced that top Apple Daily columnist Yeung Ching-kee was arrested. That was last nail in the coffin for Apple Daily.
Hong Kong Journalists Association
Why did they shut down so abruptly? It was because the chief editor wasn’t part of the company’s management — he wasn’t one of the chairpersons. So, they felt that if things continued that way, the police activity would continue and many more people would be arrested.
Based on our understanding, some of the Apple Daily reporters have fled Hong Kong to protect themselves and their families. There are also others in the process of leaving the city for new homes elsewhere. Those reporters who have stayed behind to carry on their work have begun to worry about their ability to do objective reporting. They are unsure when the time for their