SOPA Statement on Apple Daily Closure

SOPA, the Society of Publishers in Asia, is deeply concerned by the developments that have led to the closure of Hong Kong’s Apple Daily newspaper, which published its final print edition on Thursday after 26 years. Apple Daily was a member of SOPA and the work of its journalists has been honored with numerous SOPA awards. Last night, Apple Daily won SOPA Awards for Editorial Excellence in two categories, Arts & Culture Reporting and The Scoop.

The closure follows several actions by the government against the news outlet and its majority owner Jimmy Lai Chi-ying on charges related to the National Security Law, introduced on July 1, 2020. These include:

– August 2020: Lai arrested and Apple Daily newsroom raided. Lai is currently serving a 14-month sentence on separate charges of unlawful assembly. He faces two charges of suspected collusion under the NSL, which can carry a maximum life sentence in prison.

– May 2021: Some HK$500 million of Lai’s assets are frozen under the NSL.

– June 2021: Apple Daily executives arrested, including the publisher and the editor in chief. They are accused of publishing more than 30 columns calling for foreign sanctions against Hong Kong and Mainland China. The two men were denied bail earlier this week. Authorities also froze HK$18mln in Apple Daily assets and reportedly warned banks against dealing with the news outlet.

– Apple Daily’s lead editorial writer arrested on suspected collusion with foreign forces; media reports said more arrests may follow.

Without commenting on the specifics of an ongoing case, SOPA is concerned that the actions taken against Apple Daily are creating significant uncertainty in the independent publishing industry in the city, and we urge the government to uphold freedom of expression and the press as guaranteed by the Basic Law.