Skip to content
Subscriber Only
Matthew Brooker

Friendless Apple Daily Gets Nothing But the Law

Hong Kong officials are driving the pro-democracy newspaper toward its demise, sending an unambiguous message on press freedoms in the city.

Bitten and bruised.

Bitten and bruised.

Photographer: Lam Yik/Bloomberg

“For my friends, anything. For my enemies the law.” The unofficial slogan of autocrats, used to describe the modus operandi of regimes from Peru in the 1930s to Vladimir Putin’s Russia and the Donald Trump administration, has a new adherent in Hong Kong. It’s a more appropriate adage than “Asia’s world city,” the outdated catchphrase that still adorns the website of the Chinese territory’s branding agency.

In 1998, in the early days after Hong Kong’s return to Chinese rule, the government decided against charging newspaper owner Sally Aw in a case of circulation fraud to boost sales figures, even though she was named as a co-conspirator by the anti-corruption agency. Three lower-ranking employees went to jail. Aw was spared partly because “the prosecution of the chairman of a well-established and important media group at that time could have led to the failure of the group, which would have sent a very bad message to the international community,” the secretary of justice subsequently explained

Twenty-three years on, Hong Kong officials have a less understanding attitude toward another media business. Its failure is not having friends in power.