Apple Daily, the last prominent, pro-democracy newspaper in Hong Kong, will shut down after midnight on June 23 and publish its final edition on June 24 after 26 years in operation.
Hong Kong police raided the newspaper’s headquarters on June 17 and arrested five of its senior executives and journalists, including Chief Editor Ryan Law Wai-Kwong and CEO Cheung Kim-hung, who were charged with conspiracy to collude with foreign forces. Authorities froze HK$18 million (2.3 million USD) of Apple’s assets, forcing the company’s shutdown.
Political leaders in Hong Kong defended the raid, claiming that Apple Daily was not related to journalism. Hong Kong’s Security Secretary John Lee warned media and the general public that they would “regret it” if they did not cut all ties with the organization. In a statement made on June 23, Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam asserted their operations were a “suspicious act of endangering national security.”
With the strangulation of the last pro-democracy newspaper, the complete absence of free speech and freedom of the press is becoming more and more of a reality in Communist China.
Jimmy Lai, founder, owner, and contributor to Apple Daily, is currently serving a 14-month prison sentence in Hong Kong. Lai was convicted in April for taking part in unauthorized assemblies during mass pro-democracy protests in 2019. (Lai has been recognized by the Acton Institute as a defender of free speech and was the recipient of Acton’s 2020 “Faith and Freedom Award.”)
Originally a refugee from mainland China, at the age of 12 he set off for Hong Kong. He made a billion-dollar name for himself in the fashion industry, and used his fortune to launch Apple Daily, which would go on to become one of the country’s most-read newspapers. In 2020, he summarized the newspaper’s purpose in an Acton interview, saying: “In the media business, you deliver information, then you deliver choice, and choice is freedom.”
Jimmy Lai is a heroic public figure who is one of the last protectors of truth, liberty, and freedom of speech in Communist China. By shutting down Apple Daily, the one-party Communist dictatorship has silenced another voice of truth, furthering the state’s goal of absolute control over its citizens.
George Orwell said “there are occasions when it pays better to fight and be beaten than not to fight at all.” The forced closing of Apple Daily should not extinguish the fight for freedom in Communist China. It now falls to the next generation to pick up Lai’s mantle, fighting for the preservation of truth to combat tyranny.