Explainer: Why Apple Daily is being raided in Hong Kong

WION Web Team
New Delhi Published: Jun 17, 2021, 07:01 PM(IST)

A newsstand sells copies of the Apple Daily newspaper in Hong Kong (file photo). Photograph:( AFP )

Story highlights

Apple Daily has been around for 26 years and has been fiercest pro-democracy voice in Hong Kong

Thursday was a major day for Hong Kong as office of prominent pro-democracy tabloid Apple Daily was raided by police. About 500 police officers swooped-in on Apple Daily, one of the prominent news outlet that has fiercely guarded its pro-democracy stance and has criticised China's heavy-handed responses that stifled liberties in the financial hub.

Apple Daily has been around for 26 years and has been fiercest pro-democracy voice in Hong Kong. On Thursday, the police officers arrested five executives of Apple Daily, seized computers and journalistic material

Apple Daily's journey 

It was founded in 1995 "as a newspaper for Hong Kong people" by Jimmy Lai, a billionaire mogul who had fled to the city from the mainland as a penniless child, and amassed a fortune selling clothes.

Lai had not been especially political until the events of June 4, 1989, when he and many other Hong Kongers watched in horror as China sent tanks and troops to crush democracy protesters in Beijing's Tiananmen Square.

In the ensuing years he became increasingly outspoken -- often using especially colourful language to describe China's leaders -- and his clothing brand Giordano soon found itself in trouble with mainland authorities.

So Lai sold up and ploughed the proceeds into a new endeavour -- founding a media empire.

The emergence of Apple Daily coincided with Hong Kong's return by Britain to China in 1997.

As many Hong Kongers fretted about their future freedoms, Apple Daily became the voice of the city's pro-democracy, Beijing-sceptical wing.

National Security Law

Hong Kong's controversial National Security Law was passed in June 2020. Critics have termed it 'The end of Hong Kong'. It is feared that the law would be used by China to end Hong Kong's limited autonomy.

Hong Kong was a British colony and its was handed over to China under assurances of 'One country, two systems' in 1997. Since then, Hong Kongers have enjoyed greater degree of freedoms than the mainland Chinese.

However, the National Security Law, which was passed after strong pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong threatens to end the autonomy.

The law, Jimmy Lai and Apple Daily

Beijing's imposition of a sweeping national security law last year radically changed the paper's fortunes.
Lai, 73, was among the first high-profile democracy activists arrested under the law.

He was jailed for attending protests, and faces a national security charge of collusion that could land him a life sentence.

In an interview with AFP almost exactly a year ago, shortly before the law came in, he predicted it would be used to silence his newspaper.

"Whatever we write, whatever we say, can be subversion, can be sedition," he said.

(With inputs from agencies)

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