Thursday, June 24, 2021

Bidding a sad farewell to Apple Daily and marking a sinister new era for Hong Kong

The front page of the final edition of Apple Daily


In their going and getting these final copies of this staunchly pro-democracy newspaper, the people of Hong Kong once again sent out a clear message: those who value and want democracy for and in this territory are not a small minority.  And yes, there are plenty of people who believe that even if Apple Daily had put out 4 million copies today, they all would have sold out.   

Apple Daily's website is no longer operational but its final editorial has been saved (and translated into English) here and is worth reading in full.  Suffice to say that it represents such a class act compared to recent editorials in Ming Pao and the South China Morning Post.  A representative paragraph: 
Two years before the handover, foreign media predicted “the death of Hong Kong.” Apple Daily was born in those times. Our first editorial made our stance clear: “What we need to be is a newspaper for Hongkongers.” From the first issue on June 20, 1995, Apple Daily was printed in full color, priced at $2HKD, and came with free apples to seize the market, a successful though imperfect ploy for attention. While Hongkongers have simultaneously criticized Apple Daily for its sensationalism and praised it for its fearlessness, founder Jimmy Lai once said: “Apple Daily has committed many mistakes, and has not been able to fulfil its readers’ wishes in many areas and for that we are deeply sorry. But reflecting on the past quarter of a century, we have a clear conscience.” 
For the record: "Yes, [people] are aware of Apple Daily's failings, their paparazzi arm and all. What is being mourned isn't exactly the paper, but the possibility of its existence in this city that prided itself for its witty discretions - now replaced by a monotonic, absolute drone."  (Thank you, Lok!)  Also, exiled activist Nathan Law outlined in a series of Tweets what Apple Daily's closure means to the city and community: including the loss of more than 1000 workers and the loss of funding for a charity operated by Apple Daily that subsidizes expensive patent drugs for underprivileged patients 

But some interesting details have already come to light in the first two days of the trial (covered here and here by Holmes Chan).  Among them, that pepper balls were fired at Tong Ting-kit when he was riding his motorcycle, including when he was moving away from police officers (as opposed to towards them, as the officer who opened fire had alleged).  In addition, the defence has asserted that Tong could have hit police officers with his bike, but instead chose to avoid them; something which a police officer being examined conceded could have been the case.  Also, the court still has yet to hear detailed discussions of whether the slogan on his flag is advocating secession!             
Furthermore, other publications involving Jimmy Lai are being flagged by trouble by the authorities and making the news today.  More specifically, an investigation is under way as to why around 13 books by Jimmy Lai went on display on the "Librarian's Choice" shelf at Shek Tong Tsui Public Library.  Will this lead to more book censorship in Hong Kong?  Sadly, the answer is looking like a resounding "Yes".  In which case, here's leaving the last words today to Louisa Lim, an author whose book has been pulled from circulation in Hong Kong libraries -- by way of a The Guardian piece published today entitled The closure of Apple Daily marks the start of a sinister new era for Hong Kong:-      
In recent days, I’ve received distraught messages from friends. One wondered whether it was safe to post to Facebook stories; another weeped down the phone that there were no words left to write. That sentiment was echoed by the chairman of Apple’s parent company, the veteran journalist Ip Yut-kin, who simply said: “I have tens of thousands of words in my heart, but I am speechless at the moment.” The national security legislation’s ambit is vague, making Hong Kong a far less predictable environment than mainland China itself. 

The authorities’ retrospective use of the law means its impact stretches backwards in time. One victim is the entire Apple Daily archive, which has disappeared overnight from the internet; 26 years of journalism were wiped out in an act that also affects the collective memories of Hongkongers, who have long spent their weekend yum cha sessions sharing Apple Daily articles with their families.
One moment illustrating how swiftly Hong Kong’s media are being brought to heel was the sacking of the beloved political satirist Tsang Chi-ho last week. His TV programme, Headliner, was cancelled in June last year after a 30-year run, but he continued to host a radio show. Last week he was sacked after coming off air, providing an unceremonious end to 21 years of employment for the government broadcaster, RTHK. The outspoken democracy advocate said he suspected his political views were the reason. He posted a picture of his empty metal locker on Facebook with the message: “Everyone. I’ve already left RTHK. Unfortunately I had no chance to tell the audience goodbye.”

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