For uncultured plebeians like me who thought that this Apple was the same Apple that made our iPhones, I have some mildly disappointing news for you.
No, Apple Daily is not the American company Apple’s latest news app (honestly, that was my first thought… ), but a Hong Kong newspaper founded by a man named Jimmy Lai—which should be a familiar enough name if you’re up to date with the situation in Hong Kong.
So if you’ve seen recent news about Apple Daily and are wondering what the heck is going on this time, we’ve got you covered. These are 9 Facts About the Apple Daily Saga.
A Raid Was Carried Out on 17 Jun 2021
Recent headlines have reported that on Thursday morning (17 Jun), hundreds of Hong Kong police officers raided the homes of five Apple Daily executives in a national security police operation.
The five executives were arrested. They include 47-year-old Ryan Law, Apple Daily‘s editor-in-chief, and 59-year-old Cheung Kim-hung, Apple Daily‘s CEO.
Police then next raided Next Media’s headquarters and searched its newsroom with an unprecedented warrant. They seized journalistic materials, including the computers of about 40 journalists.
According to them, dozens of Apple Daily articles are under suspicion of violating the relatively new and controversial national security law This is the first such case of authorities singling out media articles as possibly infringing on this legislation.
Law and Cheung have been charged with “colluding with a foreign country or with external elements to endanger national security”. Both were also denied bail.
Law faces life imprisonment. The three other executives are still under investigation, but have been released from police detention.
An advisor to Jimmy Lai, Mark Simon, is also wanted by the Hong Kong authorities under the national security law. Simon has since relocated to the United States.
Its Assets Have Been Frozen, and It Will Be Forced to Shut Soon
On 17 June 2020, Hong Kong authorities froze HK$18 million (US$2.3 million) worth of Apple Daily‘s assets.
Simon said that the process of seeking the unfreezing of the assets would take weeks.
He also said that Next Digital would be holding a board meeting today (21 Jun) to discuss how the company should progress following the freezing of its lines of credit.
“Vendors tried to put money into our accounts and were rejected,” he revealed over the phone from the United States.
In other words, borrowing money wasn’t possible too as people can’t send money to them, too.
Simon also told Reuters that it had become impossible to carry out banking operations in Hong Kong, and that “[s]ome vendors tried to do that as a favour… and it was rejected.”
According to Apple Daily on Sunday (20 Jun), the freezing of its assets had left it with enough cash for “a few weeks of normal operations”, and has also affected staff payroll.
But things seem to be taking a turn for the worse even as Apple Daily marked its 26th anniversary 20 June: now, Apple Daily will be forced to shut “in a matter of days”.
“We thought we’d be able to make it to the end of the month,” said Simon. “It’s just getting harder and harder. It’s essentially a matter of days.”
Not the 1st Time
If you’re wondering why the aforementioned events sound kind of familiar, here’s why: it’s not the first time that Hong Kong authorities have raided Apple Daily.
On 10 August 2020, Apple Daily‘s founder Jimmy Lai was arrested along with eight others in a city-wide operation. Scores of police officers also raided Next Digital’s headquarters, where Apple Daily is produced and published.
This first raid came after the contentious national security law imposed by China on Hong Kong on 30 June 2020—without any public consultation or city legislative involvement.
Under this law, punishment can be meted out for anything China considers subversion, secession, terrorism, or collusion with foreign forces. Anyone found guilty can be sentenced to life imprisonment.
So under this same law, Lai was charged on suspicion of colluding with foreign forces and endangering national security on 11 December 2020. This is partly because he sought sanctions against Hong Kong.
He has been in jail since then, awaiting trial for said national security charges and other protest-related charges.
Way back in 2019, Lai had also met with then-US Vice President Mike Pence and then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Washington D.C. on 8 July. They discussed Hong Kong’s crumbling autonomy due to a controversial extradition bill—the same one that sparked a spate of mass protests all over Hong Kong.
Global Times, a state-owned newspaper in China, labelled Lai a “traitor” for “brazen collusion” with the West in order to fuel the Hong Kong protests.
Raids Are Considered A Warning to the Hong Kong Press
Apple Daily‘s closure would damage Hong Kong’s reputation as an open and free society, according to media advocacy groups. They also said that it would act as a warning to other companies that could face similar allegations of collusion with foreign countries.
It is also considered to be a substantial increase in pressure by the Hong Kong government to silence the local press, of which Apple Daily was widely considered to be a prime target.
The usage of the unprecedented warrant that allowed police to seize journalistic materials was also a threat to the rest of Hong Kong’s media.
Apple Daily said, “The police were able to obtain news information that was originally confidential, meaning that journalists and news organisations can no longer effectively protect sensitive information, and identities of ‘whistleblowers’ could easily be revealed.”
Apple Daily‘s Pro-Democracy Stance
But why are Hong Kong and China going to such lengths to clamp down on Apple Daily?
No, it’s because they exposed Andy Hui’s extramarital affair.
Ever since its founding in 1995, Apple Daily‘s reporting and editorials have been described as favouring the Hong Kong pan-democracy camp—which basically means supporting increased democracy in Hong Kong.
It has used its publications to encourage participation in pro-democracy demonstrations in 2003, and launched a social media campaign to support student demonstrators in 2014.
Apple Daily has also been deemed as critical of the Chinese government. Of course, it then becomes pretty obvious why China was displeased with Apple Daily.
Attacks and Boycotts by China
Of course, China quickly took action against Apple Daily. Because of its editorial position, it faced several advertising boycotts and heavy political pressure.
On 27 May 2021, Reuters reported exclusively that Hong Kong’s security chief had allegedly sent letters to Lai, HSBC, and Citibank that month. He had apparently threatened up to seven years’ jail for any dealings with Lai’s accounts in Hong Kong.
A spokesperson for Citibank had said that the bank did not comment on individual client accounts. HSBC did not comment on the matter.
Supposedly, Apple Daily also claimed that it faced Chinese-sponsored hacking practically every week.
International Criticism Against Hong Kong
The world has refused to stay silent on the whole issue, however. The Hong Kong Government has faced its fair share of detractors since the start of the whole Apple Daily saga.
The 17 June 2021 raid has incited condemnation all over the globe, including backlash from Western nations—including the US, UK, Australia, and the EU—global rights groups, and the UN spokesperson for human rights.
Notable political figures who have criticised Lai’s arrest and the 2020 Apple Daily police raid include Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen, former US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and current Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga.
There is also much concern about the erosion of press freedom in Hong Kong.
Apple Daily Continues Strong
But the police raid that occurred mere days ago has done nothing to deter Apple Daily. The staff remain defiant and steadfast against the authorities’ accusations, and have pledged to continue publications.
Thursday (17 Jun)’s publication saw a message from Apple Daily to its readers: “This is the worst of times in Hong Kong”, calling the city unfamiliar.
However, though the city has “[left them] speechless”, it vowed anew that “[t]he staff of Apple Daily will hold fast to our duties, and press on till the end to see the arrival of dawn.”
The front page was dedicated to publishing photos of the five arrested bosses of Apple Daily, with the headline: “National security police searched Apple, arrested five people, seized 44 news material hard disks.”
And at the bottom of the page, printed in a yellow colour that is closely linked to the pro-democracy movement were the words: “We must press on.”
Apple Daily increased its print run for Friday (18 Jun) to 500,000, more than fivefold its usual print run of about 80,000 amidst growing demand.
Continued Support for Apple Daily
And it seems as though the efforts of Apple Daily‘s staff has not gone unreciprocated.
The Hong Kong public has shown overwhelming support for the newspaper, queuing at city news stands to buy the latest edition since before dawn.
All over the city, Hong Kong citizens bought several copies to spread the word, including on social media platforms.
And of course, this is a developing story, so whatever you read now might be outdated. For all you know, Andriod might buy Apple Daily over and rename it Andriod Daily. Who knows.
Featured Image: Lewis Tse Pui Lung / Shutterstock.com
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