Gao Yu: I love the Apple Daily

I loved Apple Daily because it was a Hong Kong newspaper birthed out of the 1989 pro-democracy movement and the June Fourth massacre.

In the 1980s, when Giordano brand fashion was popular on the mainland, I didn’t pay much attention to who owned it. But when Giordano’s T-shirts in solidarity with Beijing were shipped to Tiananmen Square during the 1989 pro-democracy movement, and people in Hong Kong wore Giordano T-shirts with slogans on them, I learned that Giordano’s owner was named Lai Chi-ying.

On June 3, 1989, I was kidnapped by State Security on my way to work, and released on August 28, 1990, suffering from angina pectoris, to the slaughter of the mainland media. The following day, the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences reported to the National People’s Congress that the State Press and Publication Administration had shut down the Economic Weekly.

In 1993, when Beijing lost the Olympic bid to Sydney, I became a bargaining chip in the hands of the Chinese government. I was killed again two days before I was due to leave for the United States as a visiting scholar. I remember that after I was transferred to Yanqing Prison to serve my sentence, one of the most delightful pieces of news I received was a photo shown to me by my family, “An Open Letter to Bastard Li Peng,” published by none other than Next Magazine, which I realized was not just a gossip magazine, but also featured current political commentary.

I learned about Apple Daily after I was suddenly released on medical parole on New Year’s Eve 1999. In 2002, I was a guest of honor at the annual awards ceremony of the Hong Kong Journalists Association and the Foreign Correspondents’ Club, and I met many friends from the media industry and was introduced to Mr. Lai Chi-ying. Many visits to Hong Kong followed, and I befriended Mr. Li Yi and began writing commentaries for Apple Daily. After June 4, I could only make a living by writing articles, except for sitting in jail. At that time, there were many unsolicited articles from the Hong Kong media, so I had to take care of all of them, but I felt honored to write current commentaries for Apple Daily.

The decline of Hong Kong as a media center in the world over the past 20 years is evident to all. Many media with a tradition of independence and freedom had to step up self-censorship for commercial interests and survival, and then they fell and changed ownership. Only a very few media outlets, such as Apple Daily, refused to be shackled, insisted on their independent and free press position, insisted on criticism and supervision, and were not afraid of the banning of the mainland, political and economic means and violent suppression.

One Country, Two Systems for China’s National Movement

After the launch of Apple Daily, the newspaper was printed in full color, with large pictures and headlines on the front page, changing the tradition of Hong Kong newspapers and “appleizing” the Hong Kong press. This innovation is rooted in the journalistic philosophy of Chi-Ying Lai and the Apple elite. Lai Chi-ying chose the apple with a bite from Eve as his symbol, as he once said, “If Eve had not taken a bite from the forbidden fruit, there would have been no sin, no right and wrong, and certainly no news.” The stance of reporting on what is right and what is wrong is the journalistic stance of The Apple. In a TV commercial for the inaugural issue of Apple, Chi-Ying Lai bites into an apple and says, “An apple a day, no one can get to me!” This is a timeless classic of “Apple,” and a classic of one country, two systems, independent rule of law and freedom of the press.

I lost the opportunity to observe the Umbrella Movement of Hong Kong people demanding genuine universal suffrage because of the “Document 9 case” on April 24, 2014. But I clearly observed the 2019 anti-China movement in which millions of Hong Kong people participated. Lai Chi-ying and his fellow pan-democrats participated in this movement and were caught up in the popular flood, leading to his designation as the head of the “Gang of Four”. I have also observed the changes in the international environment brought about by the enactment and implementation of the Hong Kong national security law after May last year. This proves that one country, two systems is not only related to the future of Hong Kong, but also to the fate of China.

On the 17th of this month, the National Security Division of the police mobilized 500 police officers to search the Apple building again and arrested two top executives of Next Media and three journalists, and now the president of Apple, Zhang Jianhong, and the editor-in-chief, Luo Weiguang, are imprisoned pending trial. This is the first time that the authorities have used national security laws to punish the Hong Kong media. The authorities also used financial means to seize Apple’s accounts and restrict banks from making deposits for Apple. This has firmly prevented Apple from continuing to operate. On April 22, 2020, the day I resumed my civil rights, I gave my first article to Apple Daily after a six-year hiatus. Today, I use this article to bid farewell to my colleagues at The Apple.

The newspaper elite of The Apple’s 26 years of accumulation are the green hills, the people of Hong Kong who defend freedom are even more so, and the public opinion of the people is the immortal green hills!