The first Apple to fall.
Recently, if you’ve watched people’s stories on Instagram, you would have seen countless posts about “Apple Daily” — a printed pro-Democracy newspaper which was forced to close this morning, June 24th 2021, by the increasing pressure from the HK Government and CCP.
Until recently I failed to fully understood the value of a freedom & a free press. Being raised by expat parents I had a lot of privilege. I believed that people, with the exception of those in China/NK.etc, were always free to speak their mind about any topic. I thought that the stories told by survivors of political persecution and that the dystopian societies portrayed in 1984 and The Handmaid’s Tale could never become a reality, at least in my life. That things in Hong Kong could never get “that bad,” and that my privileges as a foreign passport holder and English speaker would protect me if anything happened.
I thought that the stories told by survivors of political persecution and that the dystopian societies portrayed in 1984 and The Handmaid’s Tale could never become a reality, at least in my life.
However, the closure of Apple Daily struck a chord in my heart. I had only heard of the newspaper in 2019 during the social unrest, and after they launched an Online English News section in 2020 it became one of my most trusted news sources. During the social unrest, I heard many favourable things about the paper — it was the 3rd most trusted paper in HK (CUHK), it was one of the few independent non-CCP aligned papers, and it was the last daily newspaper to be unashamedly pro-democracy and anti-CCP for its 26 years in existence. However, I also heard other things — Apple Daily was a tabloid or a “dirty paper” which used questionable and at times illegal methods to find and publish juicy gossip while also publishing extremely personal things like the birth certificates of celebrity’s children.
This immense contrast in opinions and actions made it difficult for me to decide whether to support Apple Daily after the initial crackdown under the NSL in 2020.
I sat on the fence.
I did not want to support the gossipy newspaper, feeling that it was useless and did much harm to society. In contrast, I also did not want Hong Kong’s final pro-Democracy paper, and bastion of press freedom to be extinguished.
However, the events of the past 6 months helped make up my mind for me. The increasing pressure through arrests and intimidation of Apple Daily journalists, the increasing censorship and self-censorship in light of the new “red lines” being established by the government, and to me, most importantly: the recent actions taken by the government to snuff out Apple Daily. In particular — threatening banks who deal with Apple Daily with jail time, warning that the public “should cut ties with the suspects or [they’ll] regret it very much”, freezing their bank accounts, and arresting executives and journalists under the NSL (w/out offering bail) go far to show the extent and goals of the political and economic suppression being carried out by the HK Govt and CCP.
“You should cut ties with the suspects or you’ll regret it very much” — John Lee, Secretary of Security, 17 June 2021
Essentially, 2047 has become today, and that’s why Apple Daily matters so much. Apple Daily doesn’t just matter because it’s the first paper or business to be shut down because of their political alignment. It matters because it reveals the end goal of the city — to rule by law, to maintain that rule through fear and submission, and to eliminate any opposing voices no matter how big or small.
Already, their goal has been achieved. The closure of Apple Daily, HK’s 2nd largest paper stops differing views (from the Govt’s) held by the people public from being expressed freely on a wide scale. The arrest of editors and executives from Apple Daily under the NSL force other agencies to self-censor, or realign their views with the pro-Beijing opinion out of self-preservation. And finally, the ease and speed with which this was done scares the public into silence.
Today, it is as if the banned dystopian Cantonese movie entitled “10 Years” has become the reality we live in. No longer are people free to express their views, and as a result, it will become increasingly challenging for the next generation to think critically as they are only presented with one side of the story.
Moreover, to go beyond the political suppression taking place, we must also consider how the closure of Apple Daily contributes to the erasure of Hong Kong’s culture and individuality whilst simultaneously furthering the CCP’s goal of making Hong Kong just another Chinese city. Apple Daily is one of few papers that still use written Cantonese in contrast to written vernacular Chinese (HKU & University of Hawaii, 2009) making it an important and irreplaceable part of HK’s cultural identity, language and society. Language is an integral part of our identity, and Cantonese is the mother tongue of many in HK. Cantonese is the language that we think in, that we understand best and often, our first language is almost always the one that reaches our hearts the most. This is what we are losing.
Already, Cantonese is a dying language, increasing its cultural value and need for preservation. Moreover, in 2014 Business Insider & AFP reported that the CCP was:
“Forcing Its Biggest Cantonese-Speaking Region To Speak Mandarin” in order to weaken “regional loyalties and forge a sense of common identity, particularly in far-flung areas such as Xinjiang and Tibet which see fits of resistance to Beijing’s rule.”
Furthermore, I remember multiple poignant scenes from the movie 10 years where this is most blatantly obvious.
For example, when a mother tells her husband to stop speaking to their son in Cantonese to ensure he succeeds in secondary school. Another example being when a group of young boys who joined the new HK Red Guards were given a list of words “against the rules” by “their Commander” and ordered to take photos of those words in any stores, forcing a small grocery salesman to remove the words “本地”, meaning “local” from the eggs he was selling.
The boys in the scene were clueless about the rules, enforcing them blindly, reinforcing the loss of critical thinking, of local Hong Kong culture and the integral role the loss of language plays in the political suppression carried out by authoritarian regiemes, similar to newspeak in the book 1984.
Today, the loss of Apple Daily is significant. Not just because of its political stance. Not just because it highlights the loss of freedoms under political suppression. It is significant because it demonstrates the true goals of the CCP — to erase Hong Kong as it is, to turn it into another Chinese city and silence the people.
The above is my take on the situation, controversial certainly. I’m always happy to discuss and clarify, feel free to reach out privately or in the comments. I’d love to hear your thoughts :)