HONG KONG – Readers lined up in the rain to purchase copies of the final edition of Apple Daily. They rushed to archive his articles online before his website went blank. Other local media outlets covered their homepages with reports of the publication’s demise, even as editors questioned where the new boundaries lie.
Hours after Apple Daily, one of Hong Kong’s most widely read and independent news outlets, was forced to shut down under increasing pressure from the government, many residents of the city scrambled to preserve the media. parts of his inheritance that they could. The newspaper printed its latest edition Thursday after a raid on its newsroom, arresting editors and freezing its bank accounts left it the biggest casualty yet in Beijing’s aggressive campaign against the media formerly free information from Hong Kong.
As the newspaper put its latest edition to bed, hundreds of supporters gathered in front of its seat in the rain, waving their cell phone lights and chanting “Support Apple Daily until the end!” “
From a balcony, newspaper employees turned on their own lights, shouting, “Thank you for your support! Someone inside the newsroom stuck a defiant message on the window that read in bold, “You can’t kill us all.
The newspaper said it had printed a million copies of Thursday’s edition, about 10 times its usual daily circulation, but even that didn’t seem to be enough to meet demand, and many stores were sold out. For many, the exuberant, often sensational, proudly pro-democracy publication was now more than just a newspaper: it was a symbol of the civil liberties that were lost as Beijing tightened its grip on the city.
“I’m waiting for the memories,” said Jimmy Chan, who runs a liquor store in Hong Kong’s Kennedy Town district, as he stood in a line that quickly formed at a newsstand. who had just received more copies of the newspaper. “It is for the memories of the freedom we had to say things in Hong Kong.”
On Twitter and Lihkg, a social media platform popular with activists in the city, readers organized efforts to preserve digital recordings of the newspaper’s cover. Some set up spreadsheets to identify which items they would save to the Wayback Machine, an online archive. Others took screenshots of stories that had special meaning for them. Academics have tried to keep copies for research.
“It’s a newspaper with 26 years of history. It’s a lot of memories, a lot of history about Hong Kong, ”said Fu King-wa, associate professor at the School of Journalism at the University of Hong Kong. He uploaded videos of the anti-government protests that rocked Hong Kong in 2019 to the news site’s Facebook page for research. But he was only able to save part of what he intended to keep before they disappeared.
The last printed issue of Apple Daily read like a colorful time machine, interspersed with farewell messages to its readers. “Hong Kong people have said their painful farewells in the rain,” read the top of the newspaper’s cover. Archive photos of mass protests in Hong Kong filled its pages, along with examples of award-winning covers on human rights issues.
The newspaper also reported on the court hearing in Tong Ying-kit, the first person to be tried under the National Security Law, which took place on Wednesday. Hours before the Apple Daily website went down, it released a new investigative report into Hong Kong companies that had continued to invest in Myanmar after the February coup.
Now, the newspaper’s social media sites are empty and its homepage links to a new site, goodbye.appledaily.com, telling subscribers that online content will no longer be accessible. “Thank you for supporting Apple Daily,” he said.
In a statement Thursday, President Biden called the end of Apple Daily a “sad day for media freedom.” The newspaper had been “an indispensable bastion of independent journalism in Hong Kong,” he added.
The newspaper’s shutdown was widely covered by media from various walks of life. Stand News, a pro-democracy online media outlet, showed nearly five hours of live footage from inside and outside the Apple Daily newsroom on its final night. On Thursday morning, he posted a 14-minute video that followed three editors and a photographer for the past two days before the newspaper closed. Journalists recounted the challenges of covering the arrests and hearings of their colleagues.
The South China Morning Post, Hong Kong’s largest English-language newspaper, offered a mixed assessment of Apple Daily’s legacy. “For his fans, he was a defender of freedoms,” he said. “To his enemies, he was the profaner of national sovereignty.”
Authorities accused the newspaper’s founder, Jimmy Lai, and his top executives of covering up a threat to national security, while denying that the investigation would undermine press freedom in the city. But Wen Wei Po, a Chinese government-controlled newspaper, has been more explicit about Beijing’s intentions, celebrating Apple Daily’s demise and calling it a warning to the rest of the media.
“It’s good for Hong Kong that Apple Daily is at an impasse, and it’s the start of the cleansing of Hong Kong’s media ecology,” the newspaper said in an op-ed.
“The lesson from Apple Daily’s self-inflicted demise runs deep,” he added. “All Hong Kong media need to reflect on their own responsibility, mission, ethics and result.”
In the city’s newsrooms, journalists worried about whether other publications could then be targeted. A handful of small online media such as Stand News, Hong Kong Citizen News and Hong Kong Free Press have given voice to the city’s beleaguered pro-democracy movement and carried out investigations revealing the government’s failures.
Some speculated that all of the city’s news outlets, no matter how assertive or soft, were at risk of censorship under the National Security Act because of its wide reach. The law grants Beijing broad powers to crack down on a variety of loosely defined political crimes such as separatism and subversion. Police also arrested an Apple Daily columnist on Wednesday as part of the newspaper’s investigation.
“You know there is a red line, but at the same time you don’t know what that line really is,” said Daisy Li, editor-in-chief of Citizen News. Ms. Li had worked for Apple Daily for 18 years before starting Citizen News with other senior journalists in 2017.
She pointed to recent remarks by pro-Beijing politician Stanley Ng, who criticized HK01 and Cable TV, two mainstream media, as anti-government. The power and scope of the law lay in its ambiguities, she noted.
“So we are doing what we have done in the past. We do journalistic work, ”she said. “The consequence of this work may cause government discontent, but it is journalistic work. “
The forced shutdown of Apple Daily was likely to aggravate the cold that had already settled in some media in the city. The openly anti-government orientation and confrontational stance of the newspaper provided a sort of buffer to the less aggressive media, said Ivan Choy, professor of political science at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.
“Certain media occupying a central position will now become the most vocal,” he said. “They are going to be worried and will have to censor themselves not to follow the fate of Apple Daily.”
Even though the prospects for media freedom in the city seemed daunting, some reporters said they had to persevere.
“It’s dark but either give up or do what you can,” Choy Yuk-ling, a prominent investigative journalist who was recently convicted of making false statements to obtain public records for a report that criticized the police. “Freedom of speech does not fall from the sky. We used to take it for granted, but what we can do now is fight for this space under constraints. “