|Founded||20 June 1995|
|Headquarters||8 Chun Ying Street|
T.K.O Industrial Estate West, Tseung Kwan O
An Apple Daily newsvan in Hong Kong.
Apple Daily is a Hong Kong tabloid-style newspaper founded in 1995 by Jimmy Lai. Along with entertainment magazine Next Magazine, Apple Daily is part of Next Digital. The paper publishes print and digital editions in Chinese, as well as a digital-only English edition.
In a Reuters Institute poll conducted in January 2019, the Apple Daily newspaper and its news website were the second most used in Hong Kong. The survey shows it was the third least trusted major source of news in the same year. However, according to a survey conducted by the Chinese University of Hong Kong, Apple Daily was the third most trusted paid newspaper in 2019.
The reporting and editorials of Apple Daily have been described as favouring the Hong Kong pan-democracy camp:205–206 and critical of the Chinese government. As a result of its editorial position, it was subject to advertising boycotts and political pressure. After the controversial Hong Kong national security law was enacted, its headquarters faced a widely condemned police raid on 10 August 2020.
Apple Daily was founded on 20 June 1995 by garment businessman Jimmy Lai. After the success of Next Magazine, another publication owned by Lai, he launched Apple Daily with an initial capital of HK$700 million. Lai named Apple Daily after the forbidden fruit, which he said if Adam and Eve did not eat, there would be no evil and news.
The newspaper launched against a poor economy and a competitive Chinese-language newspaper market. Political uncertainties from Lai's criticisms of the Chinese government also made media analysts pessimistic about the future of Apple Daily.:487–488 Before Apple Daily was first published, it launched a television advertisements that portrayed Lai with an apple on his head being a shooting target for its competitors.:488 In the first month of publication, the newspaper gave out coupons to reduce the price in effect to $2, despite the Newspaper Society of Hong Kong standardising the retail price of Hong Kong newspapers to $5 per issue. The price was returned to $5 after a month, but the newspaper began giving out T-shirts and coloured posters.:488 The free publicity allowed Apple Daily to sell 200,000 copies on its first day and become the newspaper with the second highest circulation in Hong Kong.:488
A price war between popular newspapers began in response to Apple Daily's competition within months of its launch. Oriental Daily announced it would reduce its price to $2 from $5 in December 1995, and other newspapers, such as Sing Pao and Tin Tin Daily followed suit.:490 Apple Daily reduced its retail price to $4 a day after Oriental Daily's announcement and had a 10 per cent drop in its circulation.:490 The price war caused multiple newspapers to collapse, including TV Daily, which ceased operations on the first day of the price war, Hong Kong United Daily, China Times Magazine and English newspaper Eastern Express, a sister newspaper of Oriental Daily.:490
The newspaper was modelled after USA Today, with printing in full colour and concise writing. It also extensively used written Cantonese, when most Hong Kong newspapers used written vernacular Chinese, and a focus on reporting crime, celebrity news, eroticism, gambling, and drug use. It carried at least three pages of entertainment news at the beginning but this was increased by eight pages by 2000.:64
In March 2015, Chan Pui-man became the first female chief editor of the journal, replacing Ip Yut-kin. In 2019, Apple Daily was an award winner of the Hong Kong Human Rights Press Awards for their reporting on Liu Xia, the wife of Chinese human rights activist Liu Xiaobo. In 2020, Apple Daily launched the English edition of its digital newspaper.
Apple Daily is described to have introduced tabloid journalism to the Hong Kong market. The focus on large colourful graphics and more flamboyant stories, such as celebrity scandals, traffic accidents and deaths, quickly made Apple Daily Hong Kong's second most popular newspaper. This type of journalism has also been replicated by other newspapers in Hong Kong.
Apple Daily attracted public criticism in 1998 for a report about a woman who jumped off a building after pushing her children out the window. The woman's husband was widely reported to have little remorse for the deaths of his wife and children. Apple Daily published a photo of the man with two prostitutes soon after the deaths. It was then revealed that the newspaper had paid the man to pose for the photograph, for which Apple Daily issued an apology after public outcry. In the same year, Apple Daily ran a front-page article claiming that lawyer Jessie Chu Siu Kuk-yuen absconded more than HK$2 million of clients' money her law firm. Apple Daily was ordered by a court to pay Chu more than HK$3.6 million in damages for defamation. In 2000, an Apple Daily reporter was sentenced to 10 months in jail for bribing police officers for information on criminal cases.
Journalism scholar Paul Lee said the establishment of Apple Daily has changed the Hong Kong newspaper ecosystem by transforming broadsheet newspapers into tabloids. Lee said newspapers with a high circulation, such as Apple Daily, The Sun and Oriental Daily, are known for their tabloid journalism as well as making mainstream reporting (see middle-market newspaper). Apple Daily did not join the self-regulation panel of the Newspaper Society of Hong Kong.
Apple Daily is also known for its coverage of breaking news and current affairs in Hong Kong and China. The newspaper had exclusive reports on political scandals, including a former member of the Legislative Council[who?] not reporting conflict of interest in 2000, a former Financial Secretary Antony Leung for avoiding tax when purchasing a car.
Apple Daily favours the Hong Kong pan-democracy camp.:205–206 Its criticism of the Hong Kong government has been described as a marketing strategy. The newspaper is also said to have sensationalised politics to produce public dissent.:168 In 2003, Apple Daily was critical of the Tung Chee-hwa administration and published news articles that encouraged readers to participate in pro-democracy demonstrations with its front-page headline. Apple Daily launched a social media campaign in support of student protesters in the 2014 Hong Kong protests:58 and its social media presence was considered a mainstream pro-activist community.
Apple Daily is also described as critical of China.:169 In 2004, it was the only newspaper in Hong Kong that expressed optimism when Chen Shui-bian was re-elected President of the Republic of China.
The editorial position against the Hong Kong and Chinese governments has resulted in advertising boycotts. In 2003, several major property developers in Hong Kong ended their advertisements in the newspaper. According to Mark Simon, an executive of Next Digital, HSBC, Hang Seng and Standard Chartered stopped their advertising campaigns in the newspaper in 2013 due to pressure from the Chinese government's Liaison Office. The Liaison Office denied it contacted the banks, and the banks said they pulled advertising for commercial reasons.
Apple Daily also said Chinese-sponsored hackers have attacked it almost every week. FireEye said in 2014 that denial-of-service attacks on Apple Daily were connected with professional cyberattacks, that may be coordinated by the Chinese government.
National security law raid
On 10 August 2020, the Hong Kong offices of Apple Daily were searched by over 200 national security officers in a large-scale police raid, following Lai's arrest for alleged violations of the recently implemented national security law. Lai's two sons, along with four senior executives of Next Digital and three social activists, were also arrested on the same day. The arrests came amid Beijing's ongoing crackdown against many pro-democracy figures in Hong Kong, which drew condemnation from international governments and human rights groups. Lai and other arrestees reportedly faced charges of "foreign collusion", which included advocating for foreign sanctions, based on the broad definitions of the national security law. Earlier in the week, the United States had placed sanctions on 11 high-profile Hong Kong officials involved in the city's democratic suppression.
The police raid lasted nine hours, as the officers rifled through the business property and carted off 25 boxes of evidence. The police had a search warrant and did not disclose what they were looking for in the headquarters. The police also brought Lai to the office for two and a half hours, where he was paraded through the newsroom in handcuffs. Some critics believed this public demonstration was aimed to humiliate Lai in an effort to silence the press.
The raid was documented in a live stream by Apple Daily's reporters, watched by thousands of online viewers. The streaming footage included a tense moment when the policed shoved an editor for questioning the boundaries of the search. The police also ordered for the live broadcast to be stopped, but the staff member stated that "it is our duty to report" and continued filming the raid.
Next Digital released a statement condemning the police raid and declared, "Hong Kong's press freedom is now hanging by a thread, but our staff will remain fully committed to our duty to defend the freedom of the press." An anonymous journalist from Apple Daily said the arrests were about "revenge" due to the newspaper's outspoken reporting on Beijing and the Hong Kong government, with another journalist stating that the intended goal was to shut down the news outlet.
Media access was restricted during the raid, with only "trusted media" sources granted accessibility based on the police's judgment of professionalism and objectivity. Several police news conferences were conducted to provide updates about the search, but numerous reporters were barred from attendance, including foreign news outlets like Reuters, Associated Press, and Agence France-Presse, along with local news sources like RTHK and Stand News. The media outlets attending these conferences were not allowed to ask questions.
During the raid, the Next Media Trade Union strongly opposed the police reading through the confidential news materials in the newsroom. Steve Li Kwai-wah, the Senior Superintendent from the new National Security Department, said they searched the area since one of the arrestees had an office on the assigned floor. Li also said the officers only "scanned" the materials to confirm their relevance to the case. Legal scholar Johannes Chan later criticised the move, stating that even a quick scan jeopardised the confidentiality in news reporting.
International communities responded to Apple Daily's raid with condemnation, with global organisations highlighting the erosion of press freedom in Hong Kong. Amnesty International spoke against the harassment of journalists, and called for all criminal charges related to the national security law to be dropped. The Asia Chapter of the Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA-Asia) expressed their support for Apple Daily, and urged Hong Kong's leaders to uphold the values of free speech. Keith Richburg, a journalism professor at the University of Hong Kong, described the "frightening prospect" for journalists to operate under the national security law. Christophe Deloire, the Secretary General at Reporters Without Borders, said that "the Hong Kong government clearly seeks to take down a symbolic figure of press freedom."
The Foreign Correspondents' Club (FCC) in Hong Kong was also critical about the police's obstruction of news coverage during the raid, raising worries about propaganda in the absence of press freedom. Human Rights Watch stated that the raid on Apple Daily may be motivated by a desire to censor an independent Chinese media outlet. The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said the national security law was used to "suppress critical pro-democracy opinion and restrict press freedom", and called for Lai's immediate release. Activist groups in Taiwan advocated for further international sanctions on Chinese government officials to support the arrestees.
Government officials around the world condemned Lai's arrest and the police raid on Apple Daily. Tsai Ing-wen, the president of Taiwan, expressed her disappointment over the continuous erosion of Hong Kong's human rights and democracy. Mike Pompeo, the United States Secretary of State, said that Beijing eviscerated Hong Kong's freedoms. Yoshihide Suga, the Chief Cabinet Secretary of Japan, voiced grave concern over Hong Kong's situation following the arrests. In contrast, China's Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian approved of the mass arrests on the pro-democracy figures, stating that the Chinese government supported the national security law.
After the raid, the executives at Apple Daily vowed to resume their daily operations. Following a surge of popular demand, Apple Daily planned to produce 350,000 printed copies for their Tuesday publication, which was a significant increase from their daily circulation of 70,000 copies. The amount subsequently increased to 550,000 printed copies. The launch of a social media campaign encouraged readers to buy the newspaper, backed by activist Joshua Wong, singer Pong Nan, and lawmaker Ted Hui. Apple Daily also uploaded a live stream of their print production process, which was watched by thousands of viewers.
On 11 August, the Tuesday newspaper was published with the front-page headline declaring, "Apple Daily must fight on." Tsang Chi-ho, the former presenter of satirical news show Headliner, included a blank space in his regular column that simply said, "You can't kill us all." Many Hong Kong residents lined up overnight at newspaper vendors to buy the first printed copies. Readers also purchased the newspapers in bulk, distributing free copies around the city. Within hours, multiple convenience stores had sold out all their copies. The publication's popularity came from readers who wanted to show their support towards Apple Daily and preserve the press freedom in Hong Kong.
On the day of the arrests, Next Digital's shares originally fell up to 16.7% at a record low of HK$0.075. An online campaign then emerged, which encouraged supporters to purchase stock in the company. Following the campaign, the stock experienced a 1100% gain over the next two days, creating a record high in the past seven years. On Tuesday, the stock closed at HK$1.10 and became the third highest performer on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange that day. On Wednesday, the shares fell over 40% after the Securities and Futures Commission issued a warning about the high volatility.
Lai was released in the early morning of 12 August after 40 hours in detainment. Later that day, he arrived at the Apple Daily newsroom, where Lai was met with cheers from employees. Lai encouraged his staff members, "Let’s fight on! We have the support of the Hong Kong people. We can’t let them down."
Awards and recognition
- Loh Chan (1995–1996)
- Ip Yut Kin (1996–2002)
- Lam Ping Hang (2003–2006)
- Cheng Ming Yan (2006–2011)
- Cheung Kim-hung (2012–2015)
- Chan Pui-man (2015–2017)
- Ryan Law Wai-kwong (2017–)
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