As Hong Kong’s Apple Daily reaches its 26th anniversary, there is bad news that it will likely cease publication this week. After the Hong Kong authorities invoked the National Security Law to freeze Apple Daily’s bank account, Apple Daily is likely to be forced to close down after June 25. We interviewed Mark Simon, a consultant who has followed Apple Daily’s founder Lai Chi-ying for many years. He witnessed the rise and fall of Apple Daily and the survival of Hong Kong, and criticized that the staff of the newspaper is being threatened by unknown people, and some people are threatening to arrest people again, and that Hong Kong has become like “hooligans ruling Hong Kong”, and there is no more rule.
The last episode of “9:30 Apple News Report” was broadcast on the official website of Hong Kong Apple Daily on the evening of the 21st. The last sentence of anchor Xie Xinyi was: “Hong Kong people cherish, fate will meet again”, implying that Apple Daily was facing the doom of being cut off on the 25th and publishing the last issue of Apple Daily on the 26th.
Reporter: Simon, thank you for taking the time to accept the interview, can you first talk about the current situation in the head office of Apple Daily in Hong Kong? Do you have any specific figures on the number of employees who have resigned?
Simon: The number of people who have resigned is a minority, and most of them have been threatened by unknown people to resign. I want to make it clear up front that our goal is not to have people sacrificed as martyrs, but to keep our employees as safe as possible and to get things handled properly so that our employees can make their own decisions.
I can tell you that at least three employees in Hong Kong confirmed that many people at the newspaper received calls from unknown people telling them that the Hong Kong police would visit the Apple Daily head office again and arrest 100 people, in other words, the United Front Department is out in full force, would you be afraid if you received such phone threats? Of course I would. But there are still many people who are sticking around until the end, but the chilling effect has indeed occurred. One of our website programs has just been taken off the air because the hosts don’t want to be in danger anymore, and we certainly can’t ask others to take the risk.
Apple Daily forced to close its doors in countdown
Reporter: Do you think there is any chance that the Hong Kong authorities will be able to unfreeze the bank accounts of Next Media and Apple Daily?
Simon: I can have very little optimism, their initial response was “no”. I’d say it’s a “hat trick” for them, they’re going for the trifecta. (Editor’s note: Arrests, freezing of property, and finally the closure of a newspaper office.
The National Security Law is the end of the rule of law and private property rights in Hong Kong
Reporter: If the closure of Apple Daily comes true, what kind of chilling effect will this have on the existing media in Hong Kong?
Simon: It’s no longer just about stifling Hong Kong’s press freedom and creating a chilling effect on the media. In the short term, it will bring devastating damage to Hong Kong’s freedom of the press and freedom of expression, and in the long term, it will be a complete destruction of Hong Kong.
The second point, Hong Kong’s rule of law (rule of law) will completely disintegrate. In the past, when we did business in Hong Kong, we could say to the other side in a dispute: “I’ll see you in court. But now this “National Security Law” down, the court has not yet made a final decision, a law, a person can freeze your assets in Hong Kong, they want to freeze it, not just for the media industry.
If you want to write a report critical of the Hong Kong economy, for example, you will have more trouble than if you were in Singapore. They can use the state security law to rule you. The evil of this law is that they can use it whenever they want. You know, Apple Daily is not a bad operation or no assets, but as long as he says that you are a threat to national security, he can do anything. This is basically telling the world that the rule of law in Hong Kong is ruined and will not protect private property rights anymore, everything is ruined.
The Pearl of the Orient perished under the Lion Rock
Reporter: You must have a lot of emotions after following Lai Chi-ying for so many years, witnessing the rise of Apple Daily and probably seeing it end in this way. What does the 26-year rise and fall of Apple Daily in Hong Kong mean for Hong Kong itself and for China?
Simon: Apple Daily symbolizes that Hong Kong used to have choice and freedom, you could buy it if you wanted to read it, or not if you didn’t want to. I’m sad that it’s closing, of course, but I’m even sadder that our partners will be facing unemployment. I want to emphasize that none of us are bowing down, but fighting until we can’t fight anymore.
Jimmy (Jimmy Lai’s English name) told everyone from the beginning that we don’t want anyone to be a martyr’s martyr. But somehow, they (the Chinese Communist Party) still found a way to keep us from speaking out and to shut us down. The record of their destruction of Hong Kong and the bad legacy they left behind with their heavy hand on the Apple Daily.
Reporter: Without the Apple Daily, what is left of Hong Kong and China?
Simon: Hong Kong without the Apple Daily is no longer Hong Kong. Because Hong Kong no longer has freedom, no private property rights and no rule of law. In other words, in my opinion, Hong Kong will become the Manila of the Philippines.
Reporter: Some people say that Hong Kong will become an ordinary Chinese city, why do you use Manila as an analogy for Hong Kong’s future situation?
Simon: In my opinion, Hong Kong will still be a little bit better than an ordinary Chinese city, compared to Wuhan, China, or Shanghai! I’m using that analogy because in any city in China, you don’t have access to media like Radio Free Asia or Voice of America. In Manila, you can, but the Philippines is not soft on the media industry and press freedom. Also, Hong Kong will never be an international financial center again because there is no rule of law in Hong Kong.
Reporter: Thank you for taking the time to do this interview with us.