BEIJING – Hong Kong’s most prominent pro-democracy newspaper is shutting down.
The paper, Apple Daily, had managed to survive the arrest of its founder and of its editor in chief, and of several top executives. But last week, the government froze its bank accounts, crippling the paper’s operations.
Apple Daily will run its last edition on Saturday — signaling the end to Hong Kong’s once freewheeling and muckraking reporting environment as well.
For 26 years, the investigative tabloid ran defiant investigations into Beijing’s political influence and biting editorials in favor of democratic reforms in Hong Kong.
The outlet’s brash style of coverage and unfettered coverage of Beijing has cost many people at the top of Apple Daily’s masthead their freedom.
The staff of Apple Daily were defiant despite Lai’s arrest. Readers had rallied to their support, donating money and buying advertisements. And Apple Daily’s staff vowed to stay on to the end.
“I had a young editor who said to me, they will have to physically remove me from my desk for me to leave,” recounts Mark Simon, an executive with Apple Daily’s publishing company.
Ryan Law, the editor-in-chief, told French outlet AFP shortly before he was arrested himself that he had ordered his reporters to carry on filing stories no matter what happened to him.
“Despite political factors and rumors, as editor in chief, I cannot take them into account when running the paper’s operations,” he said. “If you ask me, we can only carry on as usual.”
The end came sooner than expected however. Last week, the government arrested Law, four other executives and editors, then froze the paper’s bank accounts. That meant although the paper had enough money to cover 18 months of operations, those funds are now out of reach.
In a statement, Apple Daily’s publisher said “current circumstances prevailing in Hong Kong” would mean the paper’s last print edition would be Saturday. It also thanked “readers for their loyal support and our journalists, staff and advertisers for their commitment over the past 26 years.”