This week, Hong Kong people are mourners, and Hong Kong newsstands are funeral homes. Residents across the city are queuing to buy the last issue of Apple Daily.

For decades, this pro-democracy newspaper has plagued the city’s authorities.The company is forced shut down When officials freeze their assets and Senior reporter arrested According to the comprehensive national security law that Beijing imposed on the territory after the democratic protests in 2019.

Residents bought copies of the final edition in droves—one million copies of the “Apple Daily” printed instead of the normal 150,000—a quiet act of resistance. “Hong Kong people are really sad, this is the only support I can give,” said Deborah, a 50-year-old teacher who was lining up to buy books in the rain on Thursday morning.

The “Apple Daily” is a powerful indicator of the potential dissent still raging beneath the surface of the city. Analysts said that the closure of this Chinese-language newspaper and website shows that the authorities are using national security laws to stifle Hong Kong’s free-spirited media.

A newspaper that challenges authority

Apple Daily by Li Zhiying, A 73-year-old entrepreneur who made a fortune in clothing manufacturing and retail before starting a newspaper in 1995.

After Hong Kong was handed over from British sovereignty to China in 1997, Beijing promised to give Hong Kong a high degree of autonomy for 50 years, including freedom of press and speech.

For a long time, Mr. Lai has been one of China’s most famous critics in this city.When Li PengThe Chinese leader closest to the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989 defended the suppression of student protesters, and Lai was enraged. He called him a “turtle egg” in a review article, which is a Chinese insult similar to calling someone a “bastard” and has since become Beijing’s nemesis.

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

“Apple Daily” confuses celebrity gossip with serious news and investigations. The newspaper is one of the few large print publications on Chinese soil willing to criticize local and central government leaders, and its influence has spread to the city’s media. “The company has also trained many senior reporters,” said Chen Rongxin, president of the Hong Kong Journalists Association.

This tabloid is not without critics and has been accused of sensationalism, sexism and racism. It wasn’t until the early 2000s that it opened a column under the pseudonym “Fat Dragon” to criticize local bureaucrats and comment on brothels. Recently, it was accused of racial profiling when reporting on ethnic minorities and mainland Chinese residents in the city.

“Apple Daily” is very popular, but since the 2019 protests, the paper and Mr. Lai have faced a storm, and the company has been accused of being a cheerleader. The tabloid printed large posters waved during the demonstration and criticized the authorities and the city’s chief executive, Carrie Lam.

Rose Luqiu, assistant professor of journalism at Hong Kong Baptist University, said: “Supporting Apple Daily has become a kind of activism.” This includes buying Next Digital’s shares, Its parent group.

It “is not only a report on social movements, but also a mobilization movement. So this has prompted the authorities to adopt more severe suppression measures,” Lu Qiu added.

Tim, a 21-year-old student, started reading the newspaper because it covered the demonstrations. “Especially during the protests, it is clear that our lives need Apple Daily,” he said. “It promoted my political views.”

Authorities accused Apple Daily of being a cheerleader for the 2019 democracy protests and implemented strict national security laws to quell dissent

Authorities accuse Apple Daily of being the cheerleader of the 2019 democracy protest © AP

However, analysts say that the newspaper’s radical approach may have accelerated its demise.

Lai is is convicted This year because he participated in a protest. He also faces various charges, including colluding with foreign forces under the National Security Law, and has been sentenced to jail. The maximum penalty is life imprisonment, and many people think he will never be free again.

The arrested Apple Daily executives included the newspaper’s editor-in-chief Ryan Law and an opinion writer who used the pseudonym Li Ping. Hundreds of reporters of the newspaper were unemployed and lived in fear of retaliation.

Ian Cheong, an associate professor of authoritarianism at the National University of Singapore, said: “This is an ongoing process of imposing greater restrictions on the Hong Kong press. It has accelerated in the past few months and reached its peak in the past few weeks.” In Asia.

“The “Apple Daily” symbolizes the more open and freewheeling spirit of news reporting related to Hong Kong in the past… Therefore, its closure brought an end to that era.”

The authorities will continue to pressure

The death of Apple Daily was seen as a victory for the Hong Kong and Beijing authorities, but it was condemned by Western governments.

US President Joe Biden blamed the closure of “Beijing’s increased repression” and called on the government to release the newspaper’s staff.

UN Human Rights Commissioner Michelle Bachelet (Michelle Bachelet), Say The national security law “leads to increasing self-censorship by journalists.”

However, Carrie Lam accused Apple Daily of using its status as a media organization as a “protective shield,” saying: “We are not dealing with news organizations or news reports, but with acts suspected of endangering national security.”

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam said that “Apple Daily” endangers national security © Bloomberg

Beijing was particularly angry with the “Apple Daily” editorials, which the police said encouraged the government to impose sanctions on Hong Kong government and mainland Chinese officials after the protests. Lai also supports Donald Trump’s tough attitude towards Beijing.

United States Sanctions Dozens of Hong Kong and Chinese officials forced Lin “Pile of Cash” In her home, the bank violated these measures because she was worried about making her a customer.

Competitor newspapers are also not sympathetic. The Chinese newspaper Ming Pao accused Apple Daily of “political mobilization” as incompatible with traditional news organizations. The front page of the South China Morning Post asked: “Is Apple Daily a defender of freedom or a blasphemer of national sovereignty?”

Many reporters believe that the authorities can expand the scope of the attack beyond Apple. Chris Yeung, a senior reporter for Citizen News, a Hong Kong news agency, said that the prosecution made reporters worry that their reports or interviews might put them in jail. “It feels like anything can happen, which is very worrying,” he said.

In the last few hours of the Apple Daily newsroom, reporters scrambled to cover the end of the newspaper.

A reporter said: “Some colleagues are crying, some are taking pictures of each other, and some are still working hard to the last minute.”

Ingrid Tse, a 25-year-old reporter who just joined the company, said that reporters stayed in the office until 6 am on Thursday morning, drinking, eating, and condolences.

When the last paper went to press, everyone gathered in the center of the office to congratulate the editors. “Even at this moment, I still can’t accept that everything is over,” she said.

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