Hong Kong’s pro-democracy tabloid Apple Daily will print its last edition on Thursday, the paper said, after a stormy year in which it was raided by police and its tycoon owner and other staff were arrested under a new national security law.
The end of the popular tabloid, which mixes pro-democracy discourse with racy celebrity gossip and investigations of those in power, has raised alarm over media freedom and other rights in the Chinese-ruled city.
“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,” Apple Daily said in an online article.
Apple Daily’s support for democratic rights and freedoms has made it a thorn in Beijing’s side since owner Jimmy Lai, a self-made tycoon who was smuggled from mainland China into Hong Kong on a fishing boat at the age of 12, started it in 1995.
It shook up the region’s Chinese-language media landscape and became a champion of democracy on the margins of Communist China.
While viewed as tawdry at times by some of its critics, the tabloid has served as a beacon of media freedoms in the Chinese-speaking world, read by dissidents and a more liberal Chinese diaspora – repeatedly challenging Beijing’s authoritarianism.
Lai, whose assets have been frozen, has been in jail since December on charges of taking part in unauthorised assemblies, stemming from pro-democracy protests.
Rights groups, media organisations and Western governments, including the European Union and Britain, have criticised the action against the newspaper.
Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said on Tuesday criticism of the raid on the newspaper amounted to attempts to “beautify” acts that endangered national security. Chinese officials have denounced the criticism as interference.