Hong Kong’s pro-democracy paper Apple Daily will close

23 Juin, 2021, 14:50 | Auteur: Auguste Feret
  • Copies of the Apple Daily newspaper- paid for by a collection of pro-democracy district councillors- sit on a cart before being handed out in Hong Kong

Hong Kong's leading independent newspaper, Apple Daily, said it was closing down Wednesday and would print its final issue Thursday, succumbing to an unprecedented campaign by the Beijing-backed government to silence a popular tabloid at the center of the city's democracy movement.

The decision came hours after police arrested a columnist for the paper and days after authorities froze $2.3 million in company assets and arrested five editors and executives under the territory's draconian national security law, which was imposed a year ago by mainland China's ruling Communist Party.

Board members of Next Digital Ltd., the newspaper's publisher, met on Monday and set a Friday deadline to decide whether to close down operations, Apple Daily reported.

Apple Daily said in an article on Sunday that it may challenge the decision to freeze its assets in court if the city's Security Bureau denies its request.

It said the decision was "based on employee safety and manpower considerations".

The police operation against Apple Daily drew criticism from the UK, US and European Union, which said Hong Kong and Chinese authorities are targeting the freedoms promised to the city when the former British colony was returned to the control of Beijing in 1997.

Five executives, including chief editor Ryan Law and CEO Cheung Kim-hung, were arrested under the charge of colluding with foreign forces.

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The 73-year-old Lai has been jailed since December and is facing multiple charges, including participating in an illegal demonstration and violating the national security law.

Under the new law, the burden is now placed on the defendant to prove they will not break the law if released on bail.

Chinese and Hong Kong officials have insisted that the media must abide by the law, and that press freedom can not be used as a shield for illegal activities.

Rights groups, media organisations, and Western governments have criticised last week's raid of the Apple Daily newsroom by about 500 officers and seizure of journalistic materials on national security grounds.

But the national security law, which was penned in Beijing and imposed on Hong Kong previous year after huge and often violent democracy protests, allows for cases to be tried by three specially selected judges.

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said on Tuesday criticism of the raid and arrests amounted to attempts to "beautify" acts that endangered national security.

It said endangering national security is a very serious crime. Secretary for Security will handle in accordance with the law any application related to the frozen property.

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