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Last Pro-democracy Hong Kong Newspaper to Close


Staff members of Apple Daily and its publisher react on the day of the newspaper's final edition in Hong Kong, China June 23, 2021. (REUTERS/Tyrone Siu)
Last Pro-democracy Hong Kong Newspaper to Close
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Hong Kong’s only remaining pro-democracy newspaper, the Apple Daily, will publish its final edition Thursday.

The Hong Kong and Chinese governments have increased pressure on the Apple Daily in recent years for its reporting.

The publication was forced to shut down after five editors and business officials were arrested. Police froze millions of dollars of the company’s assets. The move was part of China’s increasing battle against the pro-democracy movement in the semi-autonomous city.

The board of directors of Next Media, which owns the Apple Daily, said in a statement Wednesday that the print and online newspapers will no longer publish because of “circumstances” in Hong Kong.

The closure is the latest sign of China’s efforts to control the city. Hong Kong experienced huge anti-government protests in 2019 that worried the government in Beijing. Since then, China has put into effect national security laws that were used to arrest the newspaper’s employees. China has also changed Hong Kong’s election laws to keep opposition members out of the legislature.

Apple Daily was founded by Hong Kong citizen Jimmy Lai in 1995. That was two years before Britain returned Hong Kong to China. At first, the newspaper gained little attention. It was mostly known for covering famous people.

Lai changed the newspaper, and it became a voice for defending Hong Kong’s freedoms. In recent years, it criticized the Chinese and Hong Kong governments for limiting those freedoms. China had promised to protect Hong Kong’s laws when the city was returned to China in 1997.

On Instagram, the paper thanked its readers.

“We need to continue living and keep the determination we have shared with Hong Kong people that has remained unchanged over 26 years,” Apple Daily wrote.

The decision to close the newspaper was expected after the arrests and asset seizure. The company could not pay its employees and was also worried about their safety.

The editors and executives were detained on suspicion of plotting with foreigners to endanger national security. Police said more than 30 stories published by the newspaper were evidence of a plot to get foreign nations to place sanctions on Hong Kong and China’s leaders. It was the first time the national security law had been used against reporters for something they had published.

Lai is facing charges under the national security law for plotting with foreigners. He is now serving a prison sentence for his involvement in the 2019 protests.

Also, the trial of Tong Ying-kit began on Wednesday. He is the first person to stand trial under the new national security law. He has pleaded not guilty to charges of terrorism and inciting secession during the 2019 protests.

A court ruled last month that Tong will stand trial without a jury and will face a group of three judges. That move is a change from Hong Kong’s common law tradition. It was made by the new national security law.

The United States, European Union and Britain have criticized the moves against the Apple Daily.

I’m Susan Shand.

The Associated Press reported this story. Susan Shand adapted it for Learning English. Mario Ritter, Jr. was the editor.

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Words in This Story

asset – n. something of value such as money or property

semi-autonomous – adj. partly independent; having the right to party govern oneself

circumstance – n. conditions that exist at a certain time and place

determination –n. the quality of trying and continuing to attempt to do or gain something difficult to get

sanctions – n.(pl.) actions taken to force a country or it leaders to obey international law by limiting or stopping trade, services or cutting economic aid

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