Hong Kong's only pro-democracy newspaper, The Apple Daily, has been silenced. The Apple Daily prints its last edition on Thursday, after its offices were raided and its staff and owner were arrested under new national security laws that aim to bring Hong Kong fully under Chinese mainland control.
Law enforcement officials claim that The Apple Daily violated security law by criticizing that security law.
A note on Apple Daily's website reads: "Thank you to all readers, subscribers, ad clients and Hong Kongers for 26 years of immense love and support. Here we say goodbye, take care of yourselves."
The paper was founded by Jimmy Lai, a self-made man who has been outspoken about the authoritarian crack downs on Hong Kong. Lai, originally from mainland China, was smuggled to Hong Kong on a fishing boat when he was only 12 years old, and he launched the tabloid in 1995, according to Reuters.
The offices were raided by nearly 200 police officers last August, and was again raided last week by 500 officers. Lai was arrested in August, while last week another five executives with the paper were taken into custody.
The raids served to increase The Apple Daily's distribution. After each raid, the paper increased production to 500,000 from its normal 80,000.
The Apple Daily will print 1 million copies of its final edition, which also marks the end of its online presence. Taiwan's print edition of The Apple Daily stopped publication last month, and has moved to a digital-only model.
Lai is in prison, his assets frozen. Lai had been the primary backer of the paper. He is charged with having been involved in protests and "unauthorized assemblies" during 2020, when pro-democracy activists worked hard to keep Hong Kong free before being effectively silenced by the communist party.
Carrie Lam, who is the elected leader in Hong Kong but serves with the backing of the CCP, said that the people who criticized the raid on Apple Daily's offices and presses were simply trying to "beautify" the protests, which she said endangered national security. The CCP claims it has a right to shut down newspapers, saying that media freedoms are basically at the discretion of the party.
The Apple Daily was widely read by dissidents and those would would advocate for a Hong Kong free from authoritarianism.
Pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong took to the streets in 2019 and again in 2020 as the pandemic spread around the world. While each nation on earth turned inward to deal with the contagion on their own shores, the Chinese Communist Party swooped into Hong Kong.
Laws were enacted in Hong Kong in 2019 that would have required extradition to mainland courts for local crimes and cases, and pushback against this by Hong Kongers became the foundation for a pro-democracy movement that has been crushed by law enforcement and party officials. Those laws have now been implemented.
The US has largely ignored China's annexation of Hong Kong. The global west watched idly as China implemented rules on the island metropolis that limited due process, clamped down on Hong Kong's rights to self-governance, and dismembered free speech rights.