The Irish Times view on Apple Daily’s closure: China tightens its grip

Beijing’s move against a pro-democracy newspaper in Hong Kong confirms all the fears of human rights campaigners

People queue up to buy last issue of Apple Daily at a newspaper booth at a downtown street in Hong Kong on Thursday. Photograph: Vincent Yu/ AP

People queue up to buy last issue of Apple Daily at a newspaper booth at a downtown street in Hong Kong on Thursday. Photograph: Vincent Yu/ AP

 

Apple Daily, the vibrant tabloid that is probably the last effective voice of the free press in Hong Kong, has spoken its last, shut down its press, and closed its website. It published yesterday what the staff referred to as the “obituary edition” less than a week after police froze its accounts, raided its offices, trawling through reporters notebooks and computers, and arrested senior editors.

The closure confirms all the fears of human rights and opposition campaigners about the extensive reach of the national security law imposed on Hong Kong by Beijing last year. Freedom is being extinguished in the former British colony step by step, betraying the promises made when China took it back in 1997. “One country, two systems” is what Beijing promised Hong Kong. One country, one system – one totalitarian system – is what is being delivered.

In recent months, the authorities have moved to overhaul RTHK, a public broadcaster with a history of hard-hitting journalism. Police have warned against media outlets spreading “fake news”. In April, a court convicted a journalist, who was critical of the police, of making false statements.

Apple Daily’s founder Jimmy Lai is already in jail and in the newsroom raid last Thursday two senior executives and three editors were arrested, and denied bail, on suspicion of “collusion with a foreign country or with external elements to endanger national security”. On Wednesday, police arrested editorial writer Yeung Ching-kee, who wrote last year that China’s Communist Party and its allies in Hong Kong “have decided to strangle Apple Daily, to kill Hong Kong’s freedom of press and freedom of speech”.

In an editorial earlier this week the paper warned that Beijing was in effect killing off the golden goose, the essence of what made Hong Kong precious. “Under the chaos it is in, Hong Kong still needs the truth, and freedom of speech of the press. Without freedom of press, Hong Kong will lose its greatest institutional edge, which is also the greatest appeal to investors”.

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