Hong Kongers have queued round the block today to get the final edition of Apple Daily, the territory’s fiercely independent tabloid newspaper, which authorities have forced to close. A million issues have been printed to meet demand. The plight of it and its imprisoned owner, Jimmy Lai, symbolises the tragedy of this great city as “pitiless Communist party chiefs extinguish the freedoms that once made Hong Kong so extraordinary”, says Ian Birrell in the Daily Mail. As a young railway porter in famine-ravaged Canton, Lai tasted chocolate for the first time thanks to a traveller from Hong Kong: “Hong Kong must be heaven,” he declared. He began a clothing business there before the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989 inspired him to start his media empire.
What a contrast to now. “Hong Kong is dead,” declared Lai from prison, where the 72-year-old is serving 14 months for his part in pro-democracy protests. Last week 500 police officers raided Apple Daily’s offices, freezing all assets and dragging away five senior staff in handcuffs for publishing pieces critical of Xi Jinping’s “Orwellian repression”. The newspaper stands in heroic contrast to Hollywood studios and companies such as HSBC, which “rush to do his bidding”. (Xi is notoriously prickly – when the portly Chinese leader was compared to Winnie-the-Pooh, images of the tubby bear were immediately censored.) Let’s pray that Jimmy Lai’s dream of democracy in Hong Kong and China has not been crushed for ever.
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