Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Media woes and more in an increasingly sad and absurd Hong Kong

In traditional Chinese characters on a bottle of water: 
"Hong Kong is really beautiful --  There's a 
spirit called persistence [here]"
"Hong Kong is really beautiful --
Neither mountains high, 
nor troughs low can deter the pursuit of dreams"

"Hong Kong is really beautiful -- 
Lift your head 
and eventually you'll see a clear sky"
The end is nigh for Apple DailyI take no pleasure in reporting this -- and at least one journalist friend tasked with writing its obituary has told me she felt like crying while doing so.  For despite the best efforts of the community to support it and the folks of Apple Daily itself to "press on", it is very much looking like Hong Kong's sole pro-democracy print publication's days are numbered as a result of being starved of cash to operate by the freezing of three of its bank accounts -- with its final paper edition being likely to be produced this week and possibly even being tomorrow's (Wednesday, June 23rd, 2021).  
Already, as some 30,000 people tuned in to watch it live, the Apple Daily News Report aired for the last time last night.  And today saw the halting of more Apple Daily news services, including its English language news website, a number of whose pieces I've found of value and interest (including feature pieces about the delights to be found from walking about in the city and highly rated local Cantonese restaurant, The Chairman).  "Dear readers", its final post reads, "This concludes the updates from Apple Daily English. Thank you for your support.".  
An Apple Daily report about the withdrawal from shops of "Hong Kong is so beautiful"-themed Watsons distilled bottled water featuring photos of Hong Kong landscapes and slogans like "No matter if we scatter, our roots are here" an  "Neither mountains high, nor troughs low can deter the pursuit of dreams" sadly never made it into its English website.  And it's been left to others to report in English on other recent absurdities as the government having announced a further relaxation of social distancing rules yesterday as Hong Kong recorded zero local coronavirus cases for 14 consecutive days that nonetheless keeps the four-person cap on public gatherings in place and, also yesterday, over 20 police officers having being deployed to arrest a man who had hung a Hong Kong protest flag outside his window.   
As an aside: I wonder how much longer before Radio Television Hong Kong (RTHK) is completely neutered and the Hong Kong Free Press banned or brought down by the authorities.  With regards to the former: its gutting has already begun and even while its sassiness still manifests itself from time to time, the public broadcaster most definitely is no longer completely its old, beloved self.  With regards to the latter: the popular consensus appears to be that the authorities will take aim first at the remaining independent/pro-democracy local Chinese press first, notably StandNews (whose chief editor, as it so happens, is the husband of Apple Daily's associate publisher, Chan Pui-man).      
Even so, it's not like the English language international as well as local press don't have anything to fear in Hong Kong -- whose Chief Executive refused to clarify how journalists can avoid breaking the vaguely defined national security law following the raid and prosecution of journalists at Apple Daily (despite being specifically asked to do so by a Bloomberg reporter at a press conference today).  Also, as one would expect of her, Carrie Lam chose too to ignore this question from an Apple Daily reporter: "you claimed [the authorities are] not clamping down on press freedom, but many of my colleagues are no longer able to report; you said [the National Security Law] only targeted a small minority, but ~800 people now lost their job. Could you respond?"  
On days like this, it really is hard to see much light anywhere, never mind at the end of the tunnel.  And even while I am glad to learn that activist Owen Chow today became the 12th of the 47 people facing a subversion charge for organizing or taking part in the pro-democracy camp’s Legislative Council primaries last July to be granted bail, the fact of the matter is that the majority of that number remain behind bars (despite their trial not actually even having begun yet) and there are a whole lot more pro-democracy Hong Kong politicians currently behind bars or in exile than out moving about freely here.

At the same time though, don't think that Hong Kongers have lost their sense of humor and defiance.  As proof, check out the response of wags to the Watsons Water bottle insanity: with such as a proposed "Hong Kong is really ugly" series and another showing that "Hong Kong really needs water"!  And should anyone wonder: I really do believe that "small acts of resistance *are* meaningful", with their letting others know that we are not alone and, also, are in fact the sane people in this sadly increasingly absurd city.  


peppylady (Dora) said...

Public Televison did news segment on Apple, and they said I believe 300 police raid the place. Does people have there blog post taken down if it to political.
Coffee is on and stay safe

YTSL said...

Hi peppylady --

There have been two raids on Apple Daily's offices -- last August and last week. The second time, it involved 500 police officers according to the BBC.


Re blogs being taken down: There's been quite a bit of self-censorship out of fear. So, yes. Also, access to a few websites have been blocked. Bear in mind that what's going on involves self-censorship as well as explict censorship, and threats/attacks on freedom of information as well as freedom of speech.