Hong Kong’s Apple Daily, a staunch pro-democracy newspaper for 26 years since its founding, was quickly emptied of its 1 million copies by the public on its last day of publication Thursday (June 24). Meanwhile, Hong Kong internet activists backed up the newspaper’s articles to a blockchain platform subject to less government press censorship.
According to the Associated Press and other media reports, Hong Kong people lined up early Thursday morning at various newsstands to buy the last day of Apple Daily, with people in some areas lining up since the early morning to buy. Some people expressed dismay that Apple Daily was forced to stop publication due to the authorities’ crackdown, saying that the freedom of the press in Hong Kong is severely shrinking.
By about 8:30 a.m., Apple Daily’s last day of 1 million newspapers had run out at most newsstands across the territory, the report said. Apple Daily’s paper run, which usually remained at about 200,000-plus copies a day for many years, has dropped to about 80,000 in recent years.
The headline of the last copy of Apple Daily was titled “Hong Kong People Say Goodbye in the Rain, “We Hold Up the Apple””, including a 12-page special edition featuring the front page of Apple Daily for many years and a “Farewell Letter to Hong Kong People”.
Earlier in the day, Apple Daily’s online media and social media platforms also ceased operations from early Thursday morning.
According to Reuters, a 21-year-old Internet activist in Hong Kong has been uploading Apple Daily articles to ARWeave, a decentralized data storage platform, since this week amid concerns that the “Hong Kong version of the national security law” will bring the Communist Party’s firewall to Hong Kong and restrict people’s access to different views. said it was something that needed to be done and that no one expected Apple Daily to disappear so soon.
As of Sunday, more than 4,000 Apple Daily articles had been uploaded to ARWeave.
The report said this move by online activists to preserve Apple Daily’s content stems from a decision made by RTHK not long ago to remove more than 1 year of news material from its social media platforms after being pressured by authorities. Network activists have uploaded a large number of investigative documentaries to the blockchain platform in order to preserve RTHK’s news materials. Hundreds of programs produced by RTHK since 2012 are now available for viewing on ARWeave.
The Chinese Communist Party and the Hong Kong SAR government have long viewed Apple Daily as a thorn in their side. on April 18, 2020, the Hong Kong police arrested Apple Daily boss Lai Chi-ying on charges of illegal assembly for participating in a pro-democracy march, and on August 10, 2020, the National Security Division of the Hong Kong Police Force arrested Lai Chi-ying and Next Media on suspicion of colluding with foreign forces and violating the “Hong Kong version of the National Security Law”. The National Security Division of the Hong Kong Police Force arrested Lai Chi-ying and a number of people from the Next Media Group for allegedly colluding with foreign forces and violating the Hong Kong version of the National Security Law.
On June 17, the National Security Division also arrested five executives of Next Media and Apple Daily on suspicion of “conspiracy to collaborate with foreign countries or forces outside the country to endanger national security,” and froze the assets of three related companies totaling HK$18 million (about US$2.32 million), putting Apple Daily’s operations in immediate jeopardy.
Apple Daily was to operate until Saturday, but after the police arrested the editorial writer on June 23, Apple Daily decided to bid farewell to Hong Kong people on Thursday to protect its staff. Li Ping, who was arrested on charges of colluding with foreign powers, is still being held for questioning, while Zhang Jianhong, CEO of Next Media Group, and Luo Weiguang, editor-in-chief of the newspaper, who was formally charged, were denied bail and remain in remand.