There are times when we hear or read something that actually penetrates our mindsets and preconceived notions or ideas. It sinks right in, firing instant insight and greater perspective.
One thing that did it for me this week was the closure of the last pro-democracy newspaper in Hong Kong, the Apple Daily.
I’m not from China, I don’t have relatives in China, and I’ve never even been to China. But I’ve been moved by the battle this paper has fought – and lost – with its government.
In 2019, Hong Kong experienced its largest revolt against Chinese rule since the 1997 handover by Britain. The fallout was a tough, new security law, now a year old. It’s been called one of the greatest threats to human rights and the rule of law, with broad rules that could land anyone in jail for just about anything.
Last week, the government arrested five editors and executives of Apple Daily and then froze $2.3 million of its assets under the security law.
The paper, as a result, printed its last edition on Wednesday.
Our jobs require a variety of skills. Bravery or courage rarely enter the equation, unless we happen to work as stunt people, astronauts or high-rise construction workers. Yet that’s what it takes for some reporters and editors across the world to continue publishing a newspaper.
As Apple Daily’s top executives were led away in handcuffs, they told the reporters and editors to continue. One of the editors said the authorities would have to physically drag her away to make her stop.
According to the Associated Press, the editors and executives were detained on suspicion of colluding with foreigners to endanger national security, and police reportedly cited more than 30 articles published by the paper as evidence. It was the first time the security law had been used against journalists for something they had published.
The Apple Daily reportedly grew over the years into an outspoken voice for defending Hong Kong’s freedoms that are not found in mainland China. The government found it threatening for journalists to serve the public in this way: giving voice to the voiceless and telling the stories of the diversity and magnitude of the human experience.
Many of us take our freedoms for granted in this country. Here, newspapers fold from apathy or are abandoned for fake-media websites that validate immovable mindsets and preconceived notions – the irony being that people are voluntarily submitting to brainwashing without any government interference.
The Apple Daily experience proves that newspapers don’t exist where governments don’t want democracy to exist.