Hong Kong's Apple Daily To Shut Down This Weekend After Having Its Assets Frozen

Jun 23, 2021
Originally published on June 23, 2021 11:13 pm

BEIJING – Hong Kong's most prominent pro-democracy newspaper is shutting down.

The paper, Apple Daily, had managed to survive the arrest of its founder and of its editor in chief, and of several top executives. But last week, the government froze its bank accounts, crippling the paper's operations.

Apple Daily will run its last edition on Saturday — signaling the end to Hong Kong's once freewheeling and muckraking reporting environment as well.

For 26 years, the investigative tabloid ran defiant investigations into Beijing's political influence and biting editorials in favor of democratic reforms in Hong Kong.

The outlet's brash style of coverage and unfettered coverage of Beijing has cost many people at the top of Apple Daily's masthead their freedom.

Last August, Jimmy Lai, Apple Daily's billionaire founder, and several of his business associates were arrested under a draconian national security law.

The staff of Apple Daily were defiant despite Lai's arrest. Readers had rallied to their support, donating money and buying advertisements. And Apple Daily's staff vowed to stay on to the end.

"I had a young editor who said to me, they will have to physically remove me from my desk for me to leave," recounts Mark Simon, an executive with Apple Daily's publishing company.

Ryan Law, the editor-in-chief, told French outlet AFP shortly before he was arrested himself that he had ordered his reporters to carry on filing stories no matter what happened to him.

"Despite political factors and rumors, as editor in chief, I cannot take them into account when running the paper's operations," he said. "If you ask me, we can only carry on as usual."

The end came sooner than expected however. Last week, the government arrested Law, four other executives and editors, then froze the paper's bank accounts. That meant although the paper had enough money to cover 18 months of operations, those funds are now out of reach.

In a statement, Apple Daily's publisher said "current circumstances prevailing in Hong Kong" would mean the paper's last print edition would be Saturday. It also thanked "readers for their loyal support and our journalists, staff and advertisers for their commitment over the past 26 years."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

NOEL KING, HOST:

Hong Kong's most prominent pro-democracy newspaper is shutting down. That paper, Apple Daily, managed to survive the arrest of its founder, its editor-in-chief and several top executives. But then last week, the government froze its bank accounts, and that crippled the paper's operations. Here's NPR's Emily Feng.

EMILY FENG, BYLINE: At first, the staff of Apple Daily were defiant. Yes, Jimmy Lai, their billionaire founder, and several of their executives were arrested under a draconian national security law. And yes, everyone agreed the paper's strong pro-democracy stance would get it shut down eventually by Beijing. But readers had rallied to their support, donating money and buying advertisements, and Apple Daily staff vowed to stay on till the end. Here's Mark Simon, one of Lai's advisers.

MARK SIMON: I had a young editor who knows me, who's known me for the last eight years, and she said to me, they will have to physically remove me from my desk for me to leave.

FENG: Ryan Law, the editor-in-chief, told French outlet AFP shortly before he was arrested himself that he had ordered his reporters to carry on filing stories no matter what happened to him.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

RYAN LAW: (Through interpreter) Despite political factors and rumors, as editor in chief, I cannot take them into account when running the paper's operations. If you ask me, we can only carry on as usual.

FENG: The end came sooner than expected, however. The government then froze the paper's bank accounts. That meant, although the paper had enough money to cover 18 months of operations, it was now out of reach, and so on Saturday, Apple Daily will run its last edition, heralding the end to Hong Kong's once freewheeling and muckraking reporting environment as well.

Emily Feng, NPR News, Beijing.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.