Apple Daily & other things this week

7 minutes estimated reading time

Apple Daily

Hong Kong newspaper Apple Daily closed down. It closed under government pressure. If we’re honest about it, it had been under government pressure for years. Advertisers were reluctant to be in the paper for years, partly due to government sentiment. Despite being Hong Kong’s most popular paper, it was running on loans that Jimmy Lai gave it.

Apple Daily
Final print edition of the Apple Daily published in Hong Kong

It’s end came with a series of cuts. Jimmy Lai has had his assets frozen as part of the national security law related investigation. The Hong Kong government extended these charges to further senior employees of the Apple Daily. Then the Hong Kong government froze the bank accounts of Apple Daily and the related companies.

The business had 67 million US dollars; so could have kept going for another 18 months until that freeze kicked in. As it was, the last paper would have come out on Saturday. On Wednesday the lead writer was arrested and the board decided to publish its last paper on Thursday. They printed 1,000,000 copies of the final edition which sold out. On previous days they had printed 500,000 to mark the asset freeze as Hong Kongers came out to support them. Back in the late 90s the paper was around 300,000 copies a day. The typical print run was 150,000 copies a day. The paper had about 500,000 paid subscribers. I was one of them. Yes their English copy was almost sub-Guardian standard (but with less typos of course). But their English language news has stories about Hong Kong business and China that other English language outlets didn’t cover.

The security secretary John Lee warned people not to associate with Apple Daily employees, creating a white terror style scenario.

A lot of the commentary from people who should know better has been about the Apple Daily‘s tabloid nature. Apple Daily was Hong Kong’s most popular paper for a number of reasons

But they conveniently ignore Apple Daily‘s pioneering work in internet video journalism. Its investigative journalism and an editorial stance that called government to account. Stories last year included expat police officers breaking planning and property laws. But the Communist Party of China doesn’t want to be examined, let alone held to account.

Hong Kong writer Sum Lok kei summed it up really well with this post that he put on Twitter

Yes, ppl are aware of Apple Daily’s failings, their paparazzi arm and all. What is being mourned isn’t exactly the paper, but the possibility of its existence in this city that had prided itself for its witty discretions – now replaced by a monotonic, absolute drone.

Via @sumlokkei on Twitter

The Hong Kong government has been very opaque about the kind of journalism that is allowed. It is arbitrary and designed to promote severe self censorship.

Apple Daily the night after it closed down
images of the now closed Apple Daily fence with tributes from Hong Kongers via Guardians of Hong Kong Telegram channel
Apple Daily the night after it closed down
Apple Daily the night after it closed down

It all hinges around the national security law:

  • Seccession includes acts ‘whether or not by force or threat of force’
  • Subversion or colluding with foreign countries are vague. So Apple Daily were accused with colluding with foreign countries without being in touch with them
  • The law isn’t supposed to be retroactive, yet Apple Daily content from before the July cut-off date is included in its alleged violations
  • China’s definitions of state interests are expansive
  • It is extra-territorial in nature. So this post that I have written could fall foul of inciting hatred of the Hong Kong and Chinese government. Despite the fact that this post is written and hosted outside Hong Kong. If I get shanghai-ed whilst transferring through an Asian airport you know what has likely happened

But its just the media isn’t it? No.

  • if you’re a strategist in an advertising agency writing about consumer attitudes and touch on areas like what Hong Kong localism means for brands. This would affect how brands position themselves, I wrote similar positions for brands on Brexit supporters versus remain supporters. (Brexit supporters preferred local brands with nostalgia compared to remainers.) Or changes in attitudes to home ownership and buying homewares due to immigration. The kind of things that the government won’t like then you could be doing eight years to life in jail
  • If you write critical piece of analysis on bonds, Chinese or Hong Kong ‘well connected companies’ or forward-looking views on government policies. You could be doing eight years to life in jail
  • If you create a legal opinion on any of the above for a client. You could do eight years to life in jail
  • If you did a frank audit of a well connected company as part of the audit team of an accountancy firm. You could do eight years to life in jail
  • You do legitimate academic research in an area that the Chinese or Hong Kong governments and their hangers on don’t like. You could do eight years to life in jail

All of this sounds like a bit of an exaggeration?

While the world was looking on at trials of Apple Daily, major retailer Watsons withdrew special edition water bottles. The water bottles were designed with the slogan #Hong Kong is very beautiful. Presumably, they had originally been created to tap into Hong Kongers love of limited edition things celebrating their city and their love of hiking in oppressively hot weather.

They were withdrawn due to perceived seccessionist overtones. Hong Kong is actually achingly beautiful with its futuristic skylines and natural environment. By comparison lot of the Chinese mainland is butt ugly like Hubei province or Beijing in winter.

Bao Choy, a freelance producer who worked at RTHK was fined for ‘improper car plate searches’ carried out investigating Pro-Beijing forces inspired Triad violence at Yuen Long.

A reporter at pro-Beijing paper Ta Kung Pao who accessed the same database, but was bound over instead.

The Department of Justice said it agreed with the order, as Wong had a clean record and was working for the pro-Beijing newspaper when he made the licence plate searches.

Ta Kung Pao reporter off the hook over car searches – English news (June 17, 2021)

Hong Kong brought in new film censorship rules banning documentaries on the protests and anything the government doesn’t like.

The Hong Kong government is expanding its reach into accountancy diminishing the role of Hong Kong Institute of Certified Public Accountants.

This would give Hong Kong increased insights into NGOs and political parties. Professional bodies in accountancy and law have been seen as a roadblock by the Chinese and Hong Kong governments. The movement against accountancy bodies is mirrored by moves against the legal profession. The latest move to make solicitors senior counsel turns the legal profession upside down.

You are now restricted in accessing company registry data, making ownership structures opaque. This will provide boundless opportunity for corruption and fraud and Hong Kong becomes as opaque as mainland China.

And in a news report from Hong Kong’s public service broadcaster RTHK:

“If it’s a police state, why not? I don’t think there’s any problem with a police state. When we say a police state, I will view the other side, that is the emphasis on security,” 

Pro-Beijing politician Alice Mak who is a affiliated with the Federation of Trade Unions quoted in Nothing wrong with HK being a police state: lawmaker – RTHK English news service.

GPS for your feet

Honda has been putting in thinking into pedestrian navigation that provides haptic direction instructions through your feet.

More information from SoraNews24.

Pride inspiration

June is pride month and one of the best adverts that I have seen is by Pinterest. It has members of the LGBTQI community from around the world talking about sexuality and how they learned about themselves.