Penalising The Mighty Pen!
Apple Daily, the most vocal pro-democracy newspaper of Hong Kong, has recently been shut down forcefully by the Chinese authorities. The tabloid has been strongly criticising the Xi Jinping Administration in Beijing and the Government of Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor in Victoria. The concerned authorities in Hong Kong had harassed the Apple Daily many a time in the past. The Hong Kong Police raided the tabloid’s office several times in the third week of June 2021, alleging that it was violating the controversial National Security Laws. Apart from detaining the editor-in-chief and five other top journalists, the Police froze all the assets of the media house.
On June 23 (2021), the Apple Daily issued a statement, saying: “We are suspending all operations from midnight today for the safety of our workers.” In an online article, the paper stated: “Thank you to all readers, subscribers, ad clients and Hong Kongers for 26 years of immense love and support. Here we say goodbye, take care of yourselves.” The last printed edition of the daily was published on June 24. According to the website of the Hong Kong Free Press, one million copies of the commemorative edition were being printed on June 23 night. The front page of the final edition of the daily carried a photograph of a staff member, waving at supporters, with the headline: “Hong Kongers bid a painful farewell in the rain.“
Jimmy Lai, a self-made tycoon and the owner of the daily, was trafficked from mainland China to Hong Kong on a fishing boat at the age of 12. He launched the daily later in 1995. The publication of the daily shook up the region’s Chinese-language media landscape and gradually became a champion of Democracy on the margins of Communist China. Its closure leaves only a handful of small online outlets on that side of politics, including Stand News and Citizen News.
Reports suggest that hundreds of pro-Democracy activists gathered outside Apple Daily‘s building on June 23 night to show support, ignoring heavy rains. As they waved smartphone lights, journalists, too, came out onto the balcony and responded them with their phones. It may be noted that subscribers of Apple Daily considered the paper as a beacon of Media Freedom in the Chinese-speaking world, as the Apple Daily repeatedly challenged Beijing’s authoritarianism. It was read mostly by dissidents, and a more liberal Chinese diaspora.
Meanwhile, the Global Community has condemned the Police action against the Apple Daily, terming it as a direct attack on Hong Kong’s freewheeling media since Beijing regained control of the city in 1997. “The forced closure of Apple Daily by the Hong Kong authorities is a chilling blow to freedom of expression in Hong Kong,” stressed British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab. He added: “It is crystal clear that the powers under the National Security Law are being used as a tool to curtail freedoms and punish dissent, rather than keep public order.”
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