In the summer of two years ago, during the boom of large-scale street demonstrations in Hong Kong, when pro-democracy protesters confronted the police, they were always on the front line: eager young journalists working for the tabloid Apple Daily.
Day after day, they were beaten with tear gas and clubs. They exchanged insults with the police because they sent real-time mobile phone images to the vast majority of citizens who supported the protest and were angry with the city government.
The “Apple Daily” became a symbol of this struggle, providing a combative voice for the democratic movement-as well as celebrity gossip and a rigorous investigation into the private affairs of officials.
“People have a kind of despair,” said Apple Daily reporter Elven Yu Kin-man. “They want a newspaper to write about their feelings and express their opinions.”
This tabloid has also become the main target of Hong Kong leaders and their hegemons in Beijing.It is forced Turn off Thursday after 26 years.
‘Not just anger’
“I’m very angry and frustrated,” Yu said in a telephone interview with CBC News after reporting on the last day of Apple Daily on Wednesday.
Another reporter, who declined to be named for fear of arrest, told CBC, “At least we fought and showed our dignity.”
Watch | The reporters’ union stated that the closure of Hong Kong newspapers will have a “chilling effect”:
Last week, hundreds of police officers rushed into the newsroom, confiscated reporters’ computers, and ransacked on desks as part of what the officials called “national security investigations,” alleging vague “collusion with foreign countries”.
Several editors were arrested, and $2.3 million in assets were frozen, preventing the printing press from continuing to operate.
The tycoon Lai Zhixing, the aggressive founder and owner of this tabloid newspaper, has been in jail. This spring, he was sentenced to 14 months in jail for participating in an illegal assembly and faced more charges under Beijing’s fully implemented national security law.
But his real offense may be political. Lai has long been an outspoken critic of the Chinese Communist Party.He predicted in May last year New York Times Beijing “will not only tire of Hong Kong’s freedom of the press, but also of Hong Kong’s free people.”
He also warned his employees that working as a reporter in Hong Kong is a “dangerous job.”
“We know that once our boss becomes a target, we will not be safe,” Yu said. “We live in a kind of fear, waiting for death. But it’s hard to believe that the time has come.”
National security law undermines freedom of the press
Reporter Yang Qingji was also arrested this week.
Like other Apple Daily files, he accused officials of plotting to “strangle” the tabloid’s column from being online.
In fact, Hong Kong’s freewheeling media atmosphere-unique in Chinese soil-is now being erased.
Beijing’s comprehensive national security law implemented a year ago restricts its traditional freedom of speech and is increasingly accustomed to shutting up Political opponentsAlthough China has promised that Hong Kongers will be allowed to retain their freedom for at least 50 years after the former British colony was ruled by China in 1997.
Critics say that security laws are also used to hunt down people who other officials don’t like, from lawyers to artists and scholars.
A Hong Kong journalism professor told CBC News that anonymous comments are usually “violating my professional standards.” She is so afraid of police visits that she wants to use the pseudonym Alexia to confirm her identity.
She believes that the closure of critics like Apple Daily marks the end of press freedom in the city.
“The national security law seems to be all-encompassing, and Hong Kong is not familiar with all aspects,” she said in a text message exchange with CBC News. “It sends a message to everyone in Hong Kong, especially journalists.”
She said the police referred to them as “criminals” and their newsroom as a “crime scene.”
She said the government appeared to be deliberately making the national security law ambiguous. “Red lines are everywhere,” she said, but no one will define exactly what can be reported and what cannot.
A reporter from another Hong Kong media hopes to be identified only by the surname Chen. “This shows that press freedom in Hong Kong is actually dead,” she told CBC News in a Skype interview.
“The review has already begun,” she said. “Self-censorship will happen because you want to make sure that you are as safe as possible.”
Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam, an ally of the Beijing Communist Party, refuses to accept these accusations.
“Don’t try to accuse the Hong Kong authorities of using the national security law as a tool to suppress the media or stifle freedom of speech,” she told reporters at a news conference on Tuesday.
Lin said that “normal journalism” is acceptable; but she refuses to define what it means.
“I believe that friends in the media have the ability to understand what activities endanger national security,” she said. “It is okay to criticize the Hong Kong government, but if there are intentions or activities to instigate or subvert the government, that is another matter.”
When the last issue of Apple Daily went to the streets yesterday, a large number of Hong Kong people lined up to buy newspapers. Unlike the usual 80,000 copies, 1 million copies were sold out in a few hours. Customers say they want so-called “territories”Forbidden fruit.”
“Hong Kong will become another Chinese city”
In Canada, readers like Chen Weiye are lamenting that the democratic movement has lost its “thought and soul.” From a critical point of view, it has lost an important source of information.
Chen served as an opposition member of the Legislative Council in Hong Kong for 25 years and was also the organizer of many democratic protests. He now lives in British Columbia.
He said: “The suspension of the “Apple Daily” is an official announcement that there is no longer a freedom of the press and there is no longer a free Hong Kong.”
Hong Kong can open the Internet, but Chen and others worry that it will also be restricted, just like in mainland China.
“The Chinese media will take over the mass media, and Hong Kong will become another Chinese city. The Chinese Communist Party is taking over,” he said.