ALL NEWS

Apple Daily to close, last pro-democracy Hong Kong newspaper

Jun 23, 2021, 7:44 AM
FILE - In this Friday, June 18, 2021, file, a worker packs copies of the Apple Daily newspaper at t...
FILE - In this Friday, June 18, 2021, file, a worker packs copies of the Apple Daily newspaper at the printing house in Hong Kong. Hong Kong’s pro-democracy Apple Daily newspaper will close by this weekend, its parent company said Wednesday, June 23, 2021, following last week’s arrest of five editors and executives and the freezing of $2.3 million in assets under the city’s national security law. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung, File)
(AP Photo/Kin Cheung, File)

HONG KONG (AP) — Hong Kong’s sole remaining pro-democracy newspaper will publish its last edition Thursday, forced to shut down after five editors and executives were arrested and millions of dollars in its assets were frozen as part of China’s increasing crackdown on dissent in the semi-autonomous city.

The board of directors of Apple Daily parent company Next Media said in a statement Wednesday that the print and online editions will cease due to “the current circumstances prevailing in Hong Kong.”

The silencing of a prominent pro-democracy voice is the latest sign of China’s determination to exert greater control over the city long known for its freedoms after huge antigovernment protests there in 2019 shook the government. Since then, Beijing has imposed a strict national security law — used in the arrests of the newspaper employees — and revamped Hong Kong’s election laws to keep opposition voices out of the legislature.

Apple Daily was founded by tycoon Jimmy Lai in 1995 — just two years before Britain handed Hong Kong back to China — and initially was a tabloid known for its celebrity gossip. But Lai had also always portrayed the paper as an advocate of Western values and said it should “shine a light on snakes, insects, mice and ants in the dark,” according to the paper.

It grew into an outspoken voice for defending Hong Kong’s freedoms not found on mainland China, and in recent years has often criticized the Chinese and Hong Kong governments for limiting those freedoms and reneging on a promise to protect them for 50 years after the city’s handover to China. While pro-democracy media outlets still exist online, it is the only print newspaper left of its kind in the city.

In a post on Instagram, the paper thanked its readers.

“Even if the ending is not what we want, even if it’s difficult to let go, we need to continue living and keep the determination we have shared with Hong Kong people that has remained unchanged over 26 years,” Apple Daily wrote.

The paper’s announcement coincided with the start of the city’s first trial under the year-old national security law that is being closely watched as a barometer of how strictly the courts will interpret the legislation.

The widely expected move to close Apple Daily followed last week’s arrests and crucially the freezing of $2.3 million of the paper’s assets. Its board of directors wrote a few days ago to ask Hong Kong’s security bureau to release some of its funds so the company could pay wages — but it’s not clear if it got a response. The paper also said it made the decision to close out of concern for its employees’ safety.

The editors and executives were detained on suspicion of colluding with foreigners to endanger national security. Police cited more than 30 articles published by the paper as evidence of an alleged conspiracy to encourage foreign nations to impose sanctions on Hong Kong and China. It was the first time the national security law had been used against journalists for something they had published.

On Wednesday, police also arrested a 55-year-old man on suspicion of foreign collusion to endanger national security, according to Apple Daily, which cited unidentified sources. The paper said the man writes editorials for it under the pseudonym Li Ping.

Apple Daily has in recent years come under increasing scrutiny over its pro-democracy stance. Lai, its founder, is facing charges under the national security law for foreign collusion and is currently serving a prison sentence for his involvement in the 2019 protests.

The move against Apple Daily drew criticism from the U.S., the EU and Britain.

“The forced closure of (Apple Daily) by Hong Kong authorities is a chilling demonstration of their campaign to silence all opposition voices,” British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said in a Twitter post. “It is clearer than ever that the (national security law) is being used to curtail freedom and punish dissent.”

The national security law imposed last year criminalizes subversion, secession, terrorism and foreign collusion. Chinese and Hong Kong officials have said the media must abide by the law, and that press freedom cannot be used as a “shield” for illegal activities.

The first person to stand trial under the law, Tong Ying-kit, pleaded not guilty Wednesday to charges of terrorism and inciting secession by driving a motorcycle into police officers during a 2019 rally while carrying a flag with the slogan “Liberate Hong Kong, the revolution of our times.” Several officers were knocked over and three were injured.

That slogan was often chanted during the 2019 demonstrations, which began as protests against a bill allowing Hong Kong residents to be extradited to China for trial but burgeoned into broader calls for greater democratic freedoms. China was shaken by the breadth of the protests and responded with tough measures including the national security law, which makes calls for Hong Kong’s independence illegal.

Tong’s trial will set the tone for how Hong Kong handles national security offenses. So far, more than 100 people have been arrested under the law, with many others fleeing abroad. The result is that it has virtually silenced opposition voices in the city.

A court ruled last month that Tong will stand trial without a jury, a departure from Hong Kong’s common law traditions. Under the national security law, a panel of three judges can replace jurors, and the city’s leader has the power to designate judges to hear such cases.

The law carries a maximum penalty of life in prison for serious offenses. Tong is on trial at the High Court, where sentences are not capped.

___

Associated Press news assistant Janice Lo contributed to this report.

Today’s Top Stories

All News

Apartments for rent in Sugar House on Wednesday, July 13, 2022. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)...
Kate Davis, Amie Schaeffer

Utah rental prices continue to soar

The cost of renting has skyrocketed in Utah. The price to rent in the state increased more in the past two years more over the two last years than they did in the decade prior.
9 hours ago
A Bluffdale crash between that involved a semi-truck left one person dead on Monday, Sept. 26.  (St...
Amie Schaeffer

Bluffdale crash involving semi-truck kills one

One person has died in an accident in Bluffdale. The crash involved a semi-truck and happened early Monday morning.
9 hours ago
Police SUV...
Amie Schaeffer

Woman dies in SLC shooting

A shooting in Salt Lake City on Sunday killed a woman. Authorities are looking into the possibility this is a domestic-related homicide.
9 hours ago
In this photo provided by Wreckhouse Press a home fights against high winds caused by post Tropical...
Nouran Salahieh, CNN

Hundreds of thousands without power in Atlantic Canada after Fiona rumbles north

Poor weather conditions have hampered power restoration efforts, Nova Scotia Power President and CEO Peter Gregg said Saturday. More than 900 power technicians were on their way to the area, but some customers may experience power outages for several days, he said.
9 hours ago
SLCPD is currently investigating a shooting that occurred Sunday night. One person is in the hospit...
Devin Oldroyd

One person in critical condition after Sunday night shooting

SLCPD is currently investigating a shooting that occurred Sunday night. One person is in the hospital in critical condition
1 day ago
fall weather utah...
Devin Oldroyd

Man in extremely critical condition following motorcycle accident in Little Cottonwood Canyon

Witnesses report a man in his 20s was driving a motorcycle very fast up the canyon. Following this, he lost control of the vehicle and crashed.
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

a worker with a drill in an orange helmet installs a door in the house...
Price's Guaranteed Doors

Home improvement tip: Increase the value of your home by weatherproofing doors

Make sure your home is comfortable before the winter! Seasonal maintenance keeps your home up to date. Read our tips on weatherproofing doors.
Curb Appeal...
Price's Guaranteed Doors

How to have the best of both worlds for your house | Home security and curb appeal

Protect your home and improve its curb appeal with the latest security solutions like beautiful garage doors and increased security systems.
A paper reading IRS, internal revenue service is pictured...
Jordan Wilcox

The best strategies for dealing with IRS tax harassment | You have options!

Learn how to deal with IRS tax harassment. This guide will teach you how to stop IRS phone calls and letters, and how to handle an IRS audit.
spend a day at Bear Lake...
Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

You’ll love spending the day at Bear Lake | How to spend a day at Bear Lake

Bear Lake is a place that needs to be experienced. Spend a day at Bear Lake.
Prescription opioids can be disposed of during National Prescription Take Back Day...
Know Your Script

Prescription opioid misuse | How to protect your family from the opioid epidemic

Studies have shown that prescription opioid misuse has increased since COVID-19. So what do you need to know about these opioids?
national heart month...
Intermountain Healthcare

National Heart Month: 5 Lifestyle Changes to Make Today to Keep You Heart Healthy

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. One person dies every 36 seconds in the United States from cardiovascular disease
Apple Daily to close, last pro-democracy Hong Kong newspaper