The freezing of its assets and the arrest of its leaders finished the local media. After more than twenty-five years of activity, the last issue of the daily pro-democracy Apple Daily in Hongkong will be printed this week.
“The newspaper will cease its activities from midnight and June 24 will be its last day of publication », wrote the daily on its website on Wednesday, stating that the site would stop updating from midnight.
Minutes earlier, the board of directors had said in a statement that the newspaper would cease publication by Saturday at the latest:
“Due to the current circumstances in Hong Kong, the last printed issue of ‘Apple Daily’ will be the one dated Saturday, June 26, 2021 and the digital version will no longer be accessible as of 11:59 p.m. on Saturday, June 26, 2021.”
A search, carried out on June 17 in the premises of this daily created in 1995, had led to the arrest of five leaders, including the managing director of the press group, Cheung Kim-hung, and the editor, Ryan Law, all charged with acts of collusion with foreign forces, under the law on national security. At the same time, some 18 million Hong Kong dollars (about 2 million euros) in assets belonging to three companies linked to Apple Daily were frozen.
Criticism of Chinese leaders
Monday, after a board of directors of the newspaper, the heads of section had gathered the staff to inform them of the possibility of resigning on the spot or of remaining until the last day.
For years, Apple Daily has displayed unwavering support for the pro-democracy movement and has never failed to sharply criticize the Chinese leadership. Beijing has never hidden its desire to see the newspaper disappear.
Its owner, 72-year-old newspaper mogul Jimmy Lai, is currently in custody, sentenced to multiple prison terms for his involvement in pro-democracy protests in 2019. He is also charged under the draconian national security, imposed last year on the territory by Beijing, facts punishable by life imprisonment.
The freezing of daily assets is the latest fatal blow to the newspaper, which is no longer able to pay its employees, salespeople and suppliers. Advertisers and individuals wanted to support the newspaper financially, but were unable to deposit money into the publication’s bank accounts.
Hong Kong officials say the June 17 operation follows a string of articles calling on foreign countries to impose sanctions on Hong Kong and China. They reject any accusation of infringement of press freedom and however did not wish to mention which articles violated the law.
It was after the retrocession of the former British colony to China in 1997 that the’Apple Daily became really visible. As many Hong Kong people worried about their freedoms, he became the voice of supporters of democracy and skeptics of Beijing.
Supporting the 2014 “Umbrella Movement”, Mr. Lai has become Beijing’s pet peeve. The official media regularly describe him as “Traitor” and of “Mafioso”. The newspaper’s support for the massive pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong in 2019 further intensified Beijing’s hostility. The Chinese government took advantage, in 2020, of the pandemic to initiate an implacable repression against the pro-democracy camp, with its national security law as its essential instrument.