The forced closure of Hong Kong’s last pro-democracy newspaper, Apple Daily, back in June was a massive blow against free society in the former British colony, a year after China imposed an authoritarian national-security law on the city. In the months since, police have continued to arrest pro-democracy activists and civil-society groups have continued to disband. How is life changing in Hong Kong, as Beijing continues to press its policies there, and what’s left of the fight for democracy?

Glacier Kwong is a pro-democracy activist from Hong Kong and a former columnist for Apple Daily, now living in exile in Germany, where she’s studying for a Ph.D. in law at the University of Hamburg. According to Kwong, most Hong Kongers mourn the death of Apple Daily, and the paper’s closure intensified a climate of fear in their city. Visible political actions like protests are essentially nonexistent now, Kwong says, but people are still trying to express themselves politically through art and organizing community gatherings. Many activists, meanwhile, are attempting to figure out ways to campaign while incarcerated or outside the country. “I basically grew up in activist circles,” she says, “so most my friends are activists, and 80 percent of them are either behind bars or in exile in different places around the world.”

Graham Vyse: In the West, a lot of people saw the closure of Apple Daily as a big moment in Beijing’s crackdown on Hong Kong. What effects did it have there?

Glacier Kwong: The closing of the paper means a lot to civil society in Hong Kong and to me personally. For civil society, it’s a huge shock, Apple Daily being the only newspaper that was pro-democracy instead of pro-Beijing. It had been one of the most prominent voices, though quite moderate in my eyes and never radical. I grew up reading Apple Daily, getting it out of my dad’s suitcase or his bag. It was really crazy seeing it shut down over the course of a week. It’s something I never imagined. I always thought Apple Daily would be there no matter how bad things were, because it had always been that one very stable factor in Hong Kong’s civil society.

As for ripple effects, it’s the fear it brought for all of us. Recently, 49 civil-society groups were disbanded. For example, the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements, a group that organized June 4th vigils [marking the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre], disbanded. A lot of groups formed after the 2014 Umbrella Movement disbanded.

Aleksandar Pasaric

Vyse: Understanding why a pro-democracy activist would feel invested in a pro-democracy newspaper, how did everyday people in Hong Kong react to the end of Apple Daily?

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