I am amazed but not surprised that people queued up to buy copies of the final edition of Apple Daily today at the crack of dawn or even before that. I am aware some of my friends could be in the queues, for whatever reasons. Let me quickly declare that for the last 26 years, I have not spent any money to buy any edition of the newspaper, but I had read sufficient editions of what I would describe as a local tabloid for readers who enjoy reading lurid or sensational articles. I regularly read them in the office and at clubs, to get a feel of what the paper had been publishing and feeding its readers. Their editorials were often quoted in the media summaries on TV; and Jimmy Lai had routinely used the paper to share his personal views on the government and China, which is concrete proof that freedom of expression in general and press freedom in particular has been very much alive in Hong Kong. Apple Daily has ostensibly decided to close today on financial grounds, but somehow the media has unilaterally attributed the cause to the national security law. Indeed, SCMP reported today on its front page Apple Daily’s closure under the heading of National Security Law.
Tin Tin Daily News was the first colour-printed newspaper in Hong Kong. It was first published in 1960 but was forced to close in September 2000 due to declining readership and financial problems. I can’t recall similar outburst of sentiments at the time, over 20 years ago. My good friend, the late Alex Kwan was the point man then. He actually called me to relate to me news of the closure. I was in Tokyo at the time. The paper had been in circulation for 40 years, but its demise apparently was not felt and certainly not mourned by the readers or the public.
Political scientists all over the world immediately drew conclusions that it would be increasingly difficult if not impossible to get commentators or columnists to write anything against the government or China, and that freedom of speech henceforth would therefore be severely dampened; while Amnesty International wasted no time to call the closure “the blackest day for media freedom in Hong Kong’s recent history.”
Well, as a start, the closure was not called by the government. It was a business decision of the listed company and it is for the management to answer questions from the shareholders. The sale of 1 million copies of the last edition together with the subsidies the company had been awarded would have financed the paper for a few more days. More specifically, the wanton references to freedom of speech or press freedom being threatened are simply proof that they are alive and well, or such views won’t be published or publishable at all. In this context, I agree with HKU Council Chairman Arthur Li who has said that there is nothing to worry about and who went on to say that, “Only those who want to initiate revolutions need to worry.”
Many of my very good friends have over the years routinely criticized the government and government officials all of whom they regarded as inadequate, useless and good for nothing morons. Sometimes they pointed the finger on me as a representative of the government, and I had to remind them that I had retired for nearly 20 years. One of them had given up his American green card after his retirement, having been disillusioned with the politics and the politicians of that country and after learning more about China and her history and heritage. Yes, no government is perfect, no political system is perfect, and indeed nobody is perfect. The national security law China has enacted for Hong Kong for nearly one year has provided the law abiding people of Hong Kong – the faithful and the obedient – the certainty that they can go about doing what they want to do lawfully. In short, the law has restored law and order which was lost during the riotous months of 2019 when the dark side of many of our friends was unveiled and the hideousness of human nature totally revealed. It was like Truth being revealed; and why would anyone in his or her right mind be threatened by Truth unless he or she is incapable of handling the truth.
The long arm of the law will certainly reach those who had taken part in the riots and who had contemplated or played a part to damage law and order. These are people who have reasons to flee Hong Kong and become fugitives for the rest of their lives. To me, the national security law is a shield and a boon for Hong Kong.