The final edition of Hong Kong’s Apple Daily has sold out as people queued for hours to buy it after the pro-democracy newspaper announced it would cease operations following a crackdown by authorities.
Anticipating extra demand, Apple Daily printed a million copies of its final issue. It was sold out by Thursday morning.
The final edition had an image of an employee waving at supporters, with the headline: “Hong Kongers bid a painful farewell in the rain: ‘We support Apple Daily.’”
The paper’s management said on Wednesday it had decided “to cease operation immediately after midnight”, citing concerns over the safety of staff members.
Last week, police officers raided the newspaper's headquarters and arrested five executives – two of whom were later charged with conspiracy to commit collusion with a foreign country. On Wednesday, police also arrested one of the newspaper’s columnists.
The assets of companies related to Apple Daily, which began operating in 1995, have also been frozen, and senior executives were quoted as saying this has left them unable to operate.
Hundreds of people gathered outside the newspaper’s offices on Wednesday night to show solidarity and bid farewell. Hong Kongers shouted slogans including “support Apple Daily” and “Freedom of the press never dies,” according to The Standard.
The newspaper’s staff bowed outside the office’s main door and distributed free copies of the last edition.
Some employees at the newspaper expressed anger at the closure. Dickson Ng, one of its designers, was quoted as saying that “after today, there is no press freedom in Hong Kong ... I cannot see any future in Hong Kong.”
By Thursday, Apple Daily’s website was also inaccessible.
Governments across the world joined rights groups in condemning the newspaper’s closure.
The UK’s foreign secretary Dominic Raab said: “The forced closure of Apple Daily by the Hong Kong authorities is a chilling blow to freedom of expression in Hong Kong.” Britain was the colonial power in Hong Kong until 1997.
German foreign ministry spokesperson Maria Adebahr also called the closure a “hard blow against press freedom in Hong Kong”.