As Apple Daily comes to a standstill, China is putting out the last light on a free press in Hong Kong Hong
Hong Kong – China’s Communist Party deals a massive blow to press freedom in Asia. Hong Kong’s last pro-democracy newspaper began pulling the plug on many of its key operations ahead of a deadline set by its board of directors for later this week.
The liberal, which just celebrated its 26th anniversary on Sunday, is a relentless critic of Hong Kong leaders and their Beijing supporters. With China claiming virtually complete control of once semi-autonomous Hong Kong last year, the paper became a top takedown target.
Ramy Inocencio, CBS News Asia correspondent, was the only US broadcaster in the Apple Daily newsroom on Monday night when the company streamed its last digital newscast. When the anchor checked out, tears began to roll in the control room.
As of Tuesday, Apply Daily had stopped updating its English language website and Twitter feed.
Staff at the newspaper told CBS News that press freedom in Hong Kong is dead. Some went on Monday with bags and boxes of personal items while others went on working overnight preparing the newspaper for the next day – possibly one of the last.
After 26 years, the halls could soon be completely dark. Apple Daily couldn’t pay its to Employees as the Chinese government frozen their financial assets. About 500 cops last week, arrest the editor-in-chief and four top managers.
They have been accused of violating a controversial new “national security” law imposed by China on China, alleging that they have called for foreign sanctions against China and Hong Kong leaders over the government’s actions against Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement .
Some of the Apple Daily employees told Inocencio that the atmosphere in the office on Monday was like a funeral. But others found comfort, even joy, in the newspaper’s years of accomplishments.
“We want to have fond memories,” said one woman. “I do not cry.”
72-year-old founder of Apple Daily, who was arrested last August, could spend the rest of his life in prison. Denigrated by Beijing for his strident demands for full democracy in Hong Kong, Lai has been charged with various crimes, including under the Security Act, including foreign collusion.
Alleged cooperation with foreign entities is a solid red line in Beijing’s national security law, which was introduced in response to the huge anti-government protests that filled the streets of Hong Kong in 2019.
The US has criticized the law as “a tool to silence dissenting opinions”.
Hong Kong’s Beijing Appointment Executive director Carrie Lam says the legislation is necessary to protect the country, not to ban journalism.
“All of these US government allegations are, I fear, false,” she said.
In 2019, Lai told CBS News that he was not afraid for his own future. Inocencio then asked him if he thought it was right to say bluntly that Beijing hated him.
“Yes, it’s an honor!” replied the businessman. “It’s a badge of honor.”
Apple Daily has asked the government to release some funds so it can pay its employees. The newspaper expects to know by Friday if this happens.
Many employees believe the government has little reason to give the newspaper a chance to continue operations. If this is not the case, the last newspaper of the Apple Daily will appear on Saturday.