The Hong Kong tabloid scrutiny that refused to bow to Beijing | Freedom of Press News

Hong Kong, China – The latest issue of Apple Daily, the little Hong Kong tabloid scrutiny that was born as China’s champion of democracy and outspoken critic, came out of the press four days after the newspaper celebrated. his 26th birthday.

The card had been assaulted twice by police over the past 10 months on suspicion of violating the National Security Law that had been imposed by Beijing almost a year ago. Since the first raid last August, founder Jimmy Lai, 73, has been in jail awaiting trial under the law.

Last week’s raid saw five senior executives, including its editor-in-chief, arrested for alleged security offenses while 500 police officers broke into Apple headquarters, with another staffer – the editor-in-chief – arrested on Wednesday in the morning.

The last nail in the coffin, however, was the freezing of Hong Kong authorities on the bank accounts of the media group that holds the newspaper. The move made it impossible for the newspaper to pay its staff and vendors, even when readers took copies to show their support.

The decision was based on “employee safety and labor considerations,” Apple Daily said announcing its closure Wednesday.
“We say goodbye here.” Take care of yourself. “

Apple Daily staff members and its editor Next Digital beat the latest edition of a document that began publishing in 1995 and has become a thorn in Beijing’s side [Tyrone Siu/Reuters]

Hong Kong was returned to Chinese rule in 1997 under the framework of “one country, two systems” aimed at guaranteeing absent rights and freedoms on the continent. For most of the last 20 years, the territory has remained a bastion of press freedom in a country where the media is embroiled.

“The demise of Apple Daily denies“ one country, two systems ”and creates the scene for“ one country, one system, ”said Willy Lam, a longtime commentator on Chinese politics and a veteran newspaper editor.

Bold, cheeky

Founded just two years before the transfer, Apple Daily has been both a gamble and a leap of faith.

“The newspaper wanted to have some impact not only on Hong Kong, but also to support China’s liberalization,” Lam told Al Jazeera. “But as China has become less open to Western values, the newspaper has focused on defending Hong Kong’s values ​​and keeping Beijing in mind.”

In its inaugural editorial, Apple Daily stated that it intended to be a document for the people of Hong Kong.

Lai, its founder and financier, a devout Catholic who had made a fortune in the fashion business, named the newspaper after the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden in the Old Testament. His rhyming cup jingle – “An apple a day, no liar can hold the weight” – caught the attention of Hong Kong readers accustomed to firmer offers.

He was strong. He was brave, He was shining.

The newspaper caught attention when it snapped a surreptitiously shot photo of Deng Xiaoping – China’s top leader who died in February at the age of 92 – on his deathbed on the front page.

Brutality was his selling point.

Its journalists have often sniffed out public officials and acted out of comfort.

“He speaks truth to power and finds a way to do it profitably,” said Lokman Tsui, assistant professor of journalism at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

Jimmy Lai, alongside one of the printers in 2009, created a very popular charter that supports democracy, not being afraid to speak truth to the power and criticism of the Beijing Communist Party [File: Alex Hofford/EPA]
Apple Daily founder and financier Jimmy Lai was arrested in August under national security law and the newspaper’s headquarters carried out an assault. Now he has been imprisoned [File: Tyrone Siu/Reuters]

The card accompanies the high and low front. The colorful spreads of scantily clad female models appeared in the same section of the paper as erudite columns with quotations in Latin and classical Chinese. With a couple of exceptions, his ranks of chroniclers were those that belonged to the pro-democracy circle of the territory.

Giving people what they want

Launched at the dawn of the Internet age, everyday life is poised to adapt to the digital world. His website has pioneered animated news – a mix of stills, short clips and clever graphics with narration that drops sharp sarcasm. His live channel on YouTube has built a fervent following.

After a decade, paper circulation has peaked at 500,000 in a city of about six million people with a dozen newspapers.

Apple Daily’s defense journalism brand will soon become the newspaper a thorn in the side of the Chinese Communist Party. But to Lai, a maverick millionaire of rags-to-riches now called Public Enemy No. 1 from Beijing, it was only about giving his customers what they had to buy, even to protest insertions in posters.

In the summer of 2019, amid popular opposition to legislation that would send Hong Kong residents to trial in mainland China, the newspaper abbreviated “extradition to China” in the Cantonese colloquial homophonic expression of seeing someone at the grave. The expression took off immediately and became a form of protest in the protest movement.

“At times, we might have crossed the board, but everything we’ve done has fallen within the limits of the law,” said Robert Chan, 45, who has covered mainland China for the newspaper for the past three years. .

It is until the passage of the security law, which punishes what the authorities consider subversion, sedition, collusion with foreign forces and secession with possible life sentences.

In recent years, prosecutors have used Lai’s frequent clashes with U.S. officials, then vice president, as “evidence” of his alleged “collusion with foreign powers.”

Apple Daily staff and their publisher Next Digital will be working on the latest edition of their newspaper on June 23rd. In its first editorial, the newspaper said it wanted to be a publication of the people of Hong Kong. It has printed one million copies of its final edition [Tyrone Siu/Reuters]

Earlier last month, rumors began circulating that Beijing wanted to see the newspaper closed in time for the Communist Party’s centennial celebrations on July 1st.

Alex Tang, 37, a 10-year-old technology reporter, said like most of his colleagues that he had become conditioned to take untested gossip with a grain of salt – until the second raid and the freeze of the company’s assets.

Over the past few days, some of the 800 journalists in the newspaper have been frustrated by the lack of a definitive answer on the latest publication date and separation.

“The management said they would stay until the bitter end, and they kept their word,” Tang said. “The company has done the best.”

Apple Daily will live as a website on the self-governing island of Taiwan, where it stopped publishing in print last month.

But in Hong Kong, China News reporter Chan said he would mourn the loss more than his support.

“With the newspaper gone, the values ​​they represent: the pursuit of freedom and democracy,” he said.

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