Apple Daily Special Edition

“Ink-Stained Elbows”: Apple Daily as Hongkongers’ Collective Memory

By Glacier Kwong
Apple Daily staff wave flashlights from the roof of the newspaper's headquarters and shout thanks to supporters below after the company announces its closure. (AFP)

Reading Apple Daily had been my daily routine as a child. Every night after dinner, the newspaper would be laid open on the ground, and I would be reading with my head propped on my elbows, because my hands were too small at the time to hold it up as adults do. I would have ink-stained clothes and elbows afterwards, which were annoying to have to wash.

At first, I did not understand what the news and the commentary meant. It was just a pastime. As a primary school kid, policies were abstract ideas I could hardly grasp, and all I cared about were the funny graphics Apple Daily is famous for, but which are also criticised for being crowd pleasing and sensationalism. But as I grew up, words like ‘democracy’, ‘freedom of speech’ started to bear meaning. I slowly learned about social issues in Hong Kong reading Apple Daily, recognising which politicians stand for what, and slowly realised something is very wrong with the city I grew up in.

As I grew older, I became an activist. Apple Daily became something different in my mind. It became a channel for me to deliver my ideas and communicate with the public. It was one of the few media that were not pro-Beijing – and it was the most supportive printed paper I encountered in Hong Kong as an activist.

I thought Apple Daily would always be there to do its job. I met a lot of journalists from Apple Daily growing up as an activist. They are professional, and at the same time kind and sincere human beings that believe in the fourth power and its ability to make society into a better place by informing the public. Being a journalist in Hong Kong is tough, apart from the non-responsive governments, there are batons and tear gas because the police deliberately target them as they are working. But they still persist despite all these hardships. It is amazing to be one of their contributors and to work alongside these brave journalists.

In 2019, as the “Be Water” movement broke up, Apple Daily invited me to join them as a regular contributor for their English section. I was more than honoured to join them, to share my thoughts and opinions about Hong Kong’s situation.

Apple Daily played a huge role in my life, but now it is being forced into closure by the government. It has been an important voice in the pro-democratic movement in Hong Kong. Yes, I do not find myself agreeing with everything it represents, but the existence of it and the room to not agree with Apple Daily is a symbol of free speech and a vibrant society. 

It should be up to the readers to decide if they want Apple Daily in the market, not that it should be forced to cease all operations by the government. The freezing of its assets and its being forced to cease all operations is once again proof of the national security law being a tool for the government to deploy, at will, to crack down on civil society in Hong Kong.

Glacier Kwong is a former columnist at Apple Daily.