Hong Kong, June 24 (ANI): Scores of Hongkongers rushed overnight to buy a copy of Hong Kong's Apple Daily pro-democracy newspaper's last-ever edition which is to be closed its final chapter on Thursday.
As queues of customers stretched outside newsstands across Hong Kong on early Thursday, a round of applause erupted in the Apple Daily newsroom at 11. 45 pm to mark executive editor-in-chief Lam Man-chung sending off the last issue of the newspaper to the printing press, South China Morning Post reported.
"Keep it up, Apple Daily! Keep it up, Hong Kong!" staff chanted, as the paper's followers outside its Tseung Kwan O headquarters whistled and clapped in support.
According to SCMP, several offices in the building could be seen descending into darkness as the media operation wound down for good. In a nod to the 2019 unrest, some outside were wearing black and shouting "Liberate Hong Kong; revolution of our times", a slogan popular with anti-government protesters. The chants soon fell silent.
In Mong Kok, hundreds of supporters started queuing as early as 10 pm to get their hands on Apple Daily's swansong issue, which eventually arrived at newspaper stands at about 12.55 am. By midnight, dozens of people were queuing at a newsstand on Argyle Street.
Apple Daily on Wednesday announced that it is shutting its operations earlier than expected and will stop publishing online from midnight and its management decided to run its last print edition from today. The directors of Next Digital the 26-year-old tabloid-style newspaper's parent company, had decided the newspaper would cease all forms of publication on Saturday at the latest, South China Morning Post (SCMP) reported citing a press release.
The moves come after another of its journalists was arrested under the National Security Law.
Earlier on Wednesday, Hong Kong's national security police detained the paper's lead editorial writer on suspicion of conspiracy to collude with foreign forces, the first such arrest under the Beijing-imposed legislation.
Since the arrest of five of its top executives last Thursday, Apple Daily has lost nearly half its workforce. But those remaining on Tuesday vowed to carry on through the end.
The European Union said the closure of Apple Daily operations clearly showed the national security law - which bans acts of subversion, secession, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces - was being used to "stifle freedom of the press and the free expression of opinions".
"Its closing seriously undermines media freedom and pluralism, which are essential for any open and free society. The erosion of press freedom is also counter to Hong Kong's aspirations as an international business hub," an EU spokeswoman said.
Last week, police raided Apple Daily's headquarters and arrested five executives. Lai had launched Next magazine as part of his Next Media group, now known as Next Digital. (ANI)