In an interview with EpochTV’s “American Thought Leaders” program, former Apple Daily executive Mark Simon said that he believes Hong Kong will continue to thrive despite ever-increasing restrictions and attempts to silence the press from the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
Apple Daily, Hong Kong’s largest independent paper, printed its last edition on June 24 following a raid on its headquarters and the freezing of key assets and bank accounts.
On June 17, Hong Kong police arrested five top executives of the company. Five hundred police officers searched the newsroom for evidence of the company violating the national security law which was imposed by Beijing on the city in 2020.
In a press briefing, Hong Kong police claimed that since 2019, Apple Daily had published more than 30 articles calling on countries to impose sanctions on Hong Kong and mainland China—an offense that violated the draconian national security law.
The chief executive officer, chief operating officer, deputy chief editor, editor-in-chief, and chief executive editor were all arrested.
This marks the second raid of Apple Daily in less than a year and the largest action against the media since the national security law was implemented by the Chinese regime in Hong Kong last year—and the first incident of police publicly arresting journalists.
However, Simon, the righthand man to Apple Daily founder Jimmy Lai, believes that Hong Kong will continue to thrive despite “the Chinese people having their rights taken from them by the CCP.”
“I think actually, Hong Kong will keep surviving. For the near future, maybe the medium term, I think there will not be as many people who leave that it will decimate the city,” Simon said on June 26.
“In other words, there’s a lot of people leaving, I think we’ll see probably by the end of 2022, maybe 150,000 people—and these are going to be key people—leaving. But I think as long as Hong Kong knows the world is there for them. As long as Hong Kongers can communicate with the outside world, you just can’t kill those ideas.
“You can’t kill the idea of freedom. You can’t kill the idea of individual achievement. You can’t kill these things. Although I will tell you, the Chinese Communist Party will do their best because they don’t understand that. They don’t get Hong Kong.”
Simon added that the people of Hong Kong are “decent people” who “know what the rule of law means.”
“And they know what a free press means. And I think that’s everything for Hong Kong,” he said.
Apple Daily was founded in 1995—two years before Britain handed over Hong Kong to the communist-led People’s Republic of China.
The media outlet started out as a tabloid known for reporting celebrity scandals but soon rose to prominence in Hong Kong due to its anti-communist stance, which has remained unchanged amid the city’s political drama.
Elsewhere, Simon noted that the CCP is underestimating the importance of freedom of press in Hong Kong when it comes to the world of business, finance and foreign investment—and said that attempts to silence the media could have devastating effects on the economy.
“On a mass scale, if there can’t be a free exchange of ideas, then society itself really comes to a halt because there’s not an exchange of information,” the former executive said.
“If you don’t exchange information, you can’t make the corrections the society needs. That’s why democracies can correct very quickly, okay, we’re going off kilter here, what’s happening, but you don’t go off, you don’t know you’re off kilter if you don’t have a free and open press.
“For Hong Kong, it’s even more important, because Hong Kong is a financial center. And without information, finance, and trade doesn’t work, you have to know what’s going on in the world, you have to understand what other people are doing.”
Simon noted, “The only way you get a full range of that information is through a free and open press.”
He later explained, “But more importantly, in Hong Kong, when you don’t know where the lines are on freedom of expression, when a financial community doesn’t know if they’re getting all the information, they can’t take the risk. They can’t place the money. They can’t start the businesses, there’s so much that you can’t do.”
“My belief is that if you don’t have a free and open press, the investors will soon figure that out,” he later added. “And Hong Kong’s problem will be that the advantage that it has because of a free and open press will disappear. And essentially, our markets will become no different than Shanghai—second rate, second tier, and corrupt.”