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National security raids Apple Daily︱The untraceable red line, An interview with Editor-in-Chief Ryan Law prior to his arrest: Must find a way through

The editorial office is located on the second floor of the headquarters of Apple Daily. If you look up at the glass roof of the building, you can see the clear sky suddenly covered by a dark cloud. Today, more than a hundred police officers searched the building again, this time bringing with them a court warrant to seize journalistic materials, and reporters could only watch from the rooftop through the glass pane with their long lenses, a newsroom described by the regime as a crime scene.

In the virtual TV commercial for its first publication 26 years ago, founder Jimmy Lai was able to calmly bite into an apple despite being shot by multiple arrows. Today, he is behind bars. In reality, the regime has twice deployed hundreds of police officers against the newspaper, with many of its top executives arrested and articles published accused of colluding with foreign forces and endangering national security. Before his arrest, editor-in-chief Ryan Law was interviewed and spoke of the fears of the people under the National Security Law. However, to him, what journalists must do at this time is no different from what they did in the past. “If you’re willing to think it out, walk it through, there will be a way out, at most slowly, but if you stand idle, you will never get anywhere.”

The National Security Law, described by the regime as necessary and urgent to help restore peace in Hong Kong, has been implemented for one year, and Apple Daily is regarded as the primary target of the regime’s crackdown, with many rumors suggesting that the authorities will strike soon to outlaw it. Apple Daily indeed seems to be doomed, and the rumors are not groundless: more than a hundred letters from the police were received during the 2019 anti-ELAB movement; after the implementation of the National Security Law, the state media launched editorial attacks on the pro-democracy newspaper; and Police Commission Chris Tang criticized Apple Daily without actually naming it, and said that if “fake news” incites hatred, “it must be addressed.”

Ryan Law believes the government’s intention in sending so many letters to a media organization is to exert pressure to influence its editorial policy, “I think they are, to a certain degree, targeting us, which I don’t think is warranted as a government department.” He admitted that none of the hundreds of letters from the police they received during the anti-ELAB campaign were ever read: “There’s no need for you to teach us how to do journalism. Government departments and the media should not interfere with each other, and the only contact should be to accept monitoring by the media, respond to media inquiries, provide information to the media, explain policies and provide data.”

At the time of the interview, Ryan Law and other senior editorial staff had not yet been arrested, but the news industry was already in a state of flux. Former RTHK’s “Hong Kong Connection” program producer Bao Choy was convicted for the documentary on the 2019 Yuen Long gang attack; the government announced that it would tighten all kinds of investigation channels; and the upcoming enactment of the “fake news” law, which Carrie Lam explicitly said would “not give journalists any privileges.” Ryan Law believes that journalists pen their articles in the public interest, and that their power also comes from the public’s right to know: “The government is confused. Is it depriving journalists of their rights by restricting access to the register? No, journalists have no privileges, but the government is stripping the public of their right to know. The government is not just yours, it’s everyone’s.”

The National Security Law comes with a red line that cannot be seen anywhere

In the era of the National Security Law, everyone asks the same question: Where exactly is the ‘red line’? “I actually have a copy of the National Security Law with me,” said Ryan Law as he pulled it out. He said he had gone through the entire national security legislation, but could not find the so-called “red line”, and the so-called “sedition” and “secession” are not clearly defined. Not knowing where the red line is, Law said he could only continue to focus on good journalism, “I think it’s safe if we are genuinely doing a news report,” but other risks are “hard to consider if you ask me, I don’t know their political factors and political considerations.”

As a result of his order to ban the term “Wuhan Pneumonia,” he was derided by the state media as “kowtowing,” and was challenged by his staff, which he admitted was going back on his words. He said that the initial consideration came from readers’ expectations and concerns, “Many people have been worried about Apple Daily. There is a lot of turbulence at the moment so shouldn’t we take some precautionary measures? I made this decision to give peace of mind to those who are concerned about the newspaper.”

We certainly know that we are doing journalism

With these “precautionary measures,” will Apple Daily retreat to a point where it loses its original principles? To this, Ryan Law countered, “What is the principle of Apple Daily? A truly independent media, monitoring and criticizing those in power, do everything for the public’s right to know, not for themselves.” He thinks that the risks for Apple Daily remain the same as in the past, “whether we have done enough fact-checking, whether there is a defamation factor…We surely know that we are doing journalism.” He believes that the rest has nothing to do with “news,” but is a political consideration, “if they want to mess with you, they don’t need any reasons.”

The freedom of the press has become “there is no darkest, there is only darker.” Ryan Law said laughingly, “We don’t talk about the freedom of the press anymore. The reporters of Apple Daily are pressured by their seniors every day, so every day feels like the darkest day. ‘Hey, find a case first,’ and ‘Hey, investigate more deeply,’ so there is no lack of darkness when they are at work.” In the midst of the turbulence, what journalists have to do is the same as in the past: “If you’re willing to think it out, walk it through, there will be a way out, at most slowly, but if you stand idle, you will never get anywhere.”

Be calm, be brave in the face of changes

The reason for staying is for a glimpse of hope.

He has been in the newsroom for more than 20 years, beginning his career as a political journalist to becoming the editor-in-chief of Apple Daily today. He is always in a hurry, instructing his colleagues to find this and that, and then discussing with other journalists, so busy that we have never heard him talk about himself. The reporter asked if he had ever imagined that he might get arrested. He said he was “thinking about not answering,” but then paused and said, “let’s just say, I hope I can handle things that are out of my control in a calm manner, and I hope I have the courage to change things that can be changed.”

For Ryan Law, Apple Daily is a newspaper with a clear stance, but it is not biased towards any side. Every year, the June 4 candlelight vigil is on the front page of the newspaper on June 5, and the July 1 rally is on the front page on July 2. He said he has never feared that one day Apple Daily could no longer feature the candlelight vigil on the front page because he has confidence in the people of Hong Kong, “Apple Daily is not solely Apple Daily, there is a group of people who read Apple Daily, a group of Hong Kong people behind Apple Daily.”

When the interview was conducted, it was not yet June 4, “I’m not afraid that there is nothing to report, I’m afraid there is so much to cover, from Shatin to Tin Shui Wai to the Central Government Offices, that you can’t finish everything. What do we do then?” Speaking of this year’s headline for June 5, Law said, “I already have the title in mind, ‘There will still be candlelight this year’ or ‘The lights will never fade.” He added with a smile, “We can stir up even more emotions with ‘With Apple Daily, there shall be light’.”

The June 5, 2021 edition of Apple Daily’s A1 features a collection of photos of an empty Victoria Park and candlelight from all over Hong Kong, forming a multi-page front page with the headlines “You can block Victoria Park, but you can’t lock people’s mind” and “Candlelight still illuminates the world.”


It was only two months from the decision to the gazettal of the National Security Law. After the draft articles were released, Ryan Law was able to find a number of key points for his colleagues to follow up on in a flash. As he said, “there is no lack of darkness when at work.”

He has been working for more than 20 years and could be arrested at any time. What does Apple Daily mean to him? He has never imagined not working for Apple Daily, and if the paper really ceases to exist one day, he said he would definitely miss it. “I can only say that I really love Apple Daily, I love everyone, and I hope every decision I have made is the best for the company.”

Mr. Law, the truth is that working at Apple Daily is not dark at all, and I have really enjoyed working with you.

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