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Hong Kong’s Pro-Democracy Apple Daily to Close Under Huge Pressure

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HONG KONG—Apple Daily, Hong Kong’s defiant pro-democracy newspaper that drew the ire of China’s leaders, said it would print its final issue Thursday, ending an era of unfettered reporting critical of Beijing in the city’s mainstream print scene.

The 26-year-old newspaper, which is majority owned by jailed Beijing critic Jimmy Lai, has come under immense pressure from Hong Kong authorities, who in the past week froze company assets, seized journalists’ computers and charged two of its top executives under a national-security law that was imposed by Beijing last year to crush dissent in the city.

Apple Daily reported that its management decided to run its last print edition Thursday and stop updating its website after midnight on Wednesday, citing employee safety and staffing considerations. Some of the hundreds of journalists who would have lost their jobs had quit in recent days and weeks, concerned about their security and the precarious position of their employer.

“The era of free political speech as we have long known it is gone,” said Sharron Fast, a journalism lecturer at the University of Hong Kong, who noted recent moves to censor books, art and movies in the city. “The loss of Apple at this point almost feels like we are at the brink of collapse. And it is natural for this loss to be profoundly felt in the city,” she said.

Journalist groups and some foreign governments have criticized Hong Kong authorities for targeting Apple Daily, saying they have undermined press freedom in the former British colony and sent a chill through the industry. Authorities have turned their attention to the media after purging opposition groups from the city’s political scene, ending street protests and jailing pro-democracy activists.

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