289. Beijing-Backed Officials and Media Threaten to Shut Down Hong Kong’s ‘Apple Daily’ Newspaper

‘Let’s stand tall in fallen times,’ says Apple Daily

BY ALEX WU

April 18, 2021 Updated: April 18, 2021

Pro-Beijing media and government officials in Hong Kong are ganging up on local independent newspaper Apple Daily—one of the few remaining free media in Hong Kong—threatening to shut it down.

Apple Daily was founded by Hong Kong media tycoon Jimmy Lai who on April 16 was sentenced to 14 months in prison for supporting Hong Kong’s anti-Beijing and pro-democracy movement in 2019.

During the opening ceremony of Hong Kong’s newly introduced “National Security Education Day” on April 15, the city’s chief executive Carrie Lam stated that the local government would “strengthen publicity, guidance, supervision, and management of schools, social organizations, media, and the internet regarding national security issues” based on the Hong Kong National Security Law passed by China’s ruling communist party in Beijing last year.

On the same day, Hong Kong Police Commissioner Chris Tang told reporters the police would “strengthen the supervision of the media” and criticized Lai’s Apple Daily, without directly naming it. He also threatened the remaining press by saying, “If there is evidence that someone uses fake news to incite hatred, they will be arrested and prosecuted.”

Apple Daily’s editor-in-chief, Luo Weiguang, said that Tang’s remarks against the media represented typical rhetoric from an official shirking their responsibility to the people, in effect making way for the government to suppress the media.

The Hong Kong Journalists Association also issued a statement condemning Tang for “making unreasonable remarks [about the media] without substantive evidence.” The association requested that Tang retract his statement.

On April 16, Hong Kong’s Secretary for Security, John Lee, said at a legislature meeting that “saboteurs and Hong Kong independence advocates” are in the government’s sights as they continue to spread their message through the media.

Hong Kong Chinese language newspaper Ta Kung Pao, which is controlled by the Chinese Communist Party’s liaison office in Hong Kong, also published an editorial calling for a ban of Apple Daily. The article accused the Apple Daily of “engaging in collusion with foreign forces, inciting violence, and making fake news, as well as challenging national security”—all illegal under Beijing’s National Security Law.

Apple Daily responded to the accusations by quoting Lai’s words, “Let’s stand tall in fallen times.”

Media mogul Jimmy Lai
Media mogul Jimmy Lai, founder of Apple Daily, arrives the Court of Final Appeal, for hearing an appeal by the Department of Justice against the bail decision of Lai, in Hong Kong, on Dec. 31, 2020. (Tyrone Siu/Reuters)

Apple Daily is widely regarded as the benchmark of Hong Kong’s press freedom, and the outside world is worried that the Beijing-backed Hong Kong government may start with Apple Daily to completely purge the Hong Kong media.

Fu King-wa, associate professor of the Journalism and Media Research Center of the University of Hong Kong, told Radio Free Asia (RFA) of the situation, “I believe that the authorities will take actions against the entire Hong Kong media.”

He said that as one of Hong Kong’s most influential media, Apple Daily “must be one of the main targets,” adding that the authorities are now suppressing influential media in order to intimidate and silence other media, and make it difficult for them to function as the fourth power of society to supervise the government and voice the people’s concerns.

Epoch Times Photo
Newspapers of the Hong Kong edition of The Epoch Times come out of the printing press on April 17 as the outlet resumes print after an attack on the printing facility on April 12. (The Epoch Times)

Meanwhile, as another media that is independent of the Chinese regime’s influence, the Hong Kong Epoch Times’s printing press was attacked and machines destroyed by unknown individuals last week. The international community and politicians from around the world have condemned the attack and expressed support for The Epoch Times.

According to an analysis published by RFA, when the British handed Hong Kong over to communist China, they summarized the “four pillars” of Hong Kong’s success as an independent judiciary and a common law system, clean and respected civil servants, a fair business environment, and a free press. However, under the communist regime and Chinese leader Xi Jinping, the first, second, and third “pillars” are all collapsing.

The Ta Kung Pao article advocating for the ban of Apple Daily indicates that the fourth pillar is also about to collapse, the analysis said.

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