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Hong Kong's pro-democracy paper Apple Daily forced to shut down, last edition sold out as free-press era ends

In a blow to media freedom, Apple Daily - Hong Kong’s largest pro-democracy paper - has announced its closure.

Hong Kong's pro-democracy paper Apple Daily forced to shut down, last edition sold out as free-press era ends-dnm
Hong Kong, First Published Jun 24, 2021, 11:41 AM IST
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Hong Kong: Hong Kong's pro-democracy Apple Daily tabloid said it was a "victim of tyranny" in a defiant final edition on Thursday after it was forced to close under a new national security law, ending a 26-year run of taking on China's authoritarian leaders.

The sudden death of the popular newspaper is the latest blow to Hong Kong's freedoms, deepening unease over whether the international finance centre can remain a media hub as China seeks to stamp out dissent.

Queues formed across Hong Kong on Thursday residents raced to snap up one of the one million copies Apple Daily said it planned to print. Many vendors sold out within minutes and were awaiting fresh deliveries.

The swansong front page featured the paper's own journalists waving goodbye to crowds outside its headquarters.

"Apple Daily is dead," deputy chief editor Chan Pui-man, who was arrested last week on a national security charge, wrote in a farewell letter to readers.

"Press freedom became the victim of tyranny."

In the working-class district of Mongkok, hundreds queued through the early hours of the morning to get their hands on the final edition, some chanting "Apple Daily we will meet again!"

"It's very shocking," a 30-year-old woman, who was in the queue and gave her first name as Candy, told AFP.

"Within two weeks, authorities could use this national security law to dismantle a listed company."

Hong Kong's most popular tabloid had long been a thorn in Beijing's side, with unapologetic support for the city's pro-democracy movement and caustic criticism of China's authoritarian leaders.

The closure of the popular tabloid, which mixes pro-democracy views with celebrity gossip and investigations of those in power, marks the end of an era for media freedom in the Chinese-ruled city, critics say.

"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 said in an online article.

Owner Jimmy Lai, currently in jail for attending democracy protests, was among the first to be charged under the law after its imposition last year.

But the final chapter was written over the last week when authorities deployed the security law to raid the newsroom, arrest senior executives and freeze its assets.

That last move crippled the paper's ability to conduct business or pay staff and the news group decided Thursday's newspaper -- a run of one million copies in a city of 7.5 million -- would be its last.

It shook up the region's Chinese-language media landscape and became a champion of democracy on the margins of Communist China. Its demise leaves only a handful of small online outlets on that side of politics, including Stand News and Citizen News.

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