Hong Kong’s largest pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily will print its last edition on Thursday, 24 June, after authorities froze the paper’s account and arrested its employees under a controversial national security law, reported the BBC.
The 26-year-old tabloid, whose founder Jimmy Lai is in prison over allegations of having colluded with foreign powers, said it had decided to “cease operation immediately after midnight” keeping in mind the safety of its staff.
According to Mark Simon, an advisor to Lai, the police had stormed into a board meeting on Wednesday, 23, June, and arrested one of its employees.
Simon feels the police action was initiated to “influence the outcome of the meeting,” which, eventually, led to the decision of the daily being shut.
The police action comes after a 55-year-old columnist with the daily was arrested on charges of colluding with foreign forces.
Earlier, Mark Simon had told Reuters that the daily thought it would be able to “make it to the end of the month. It’s just getting harder and harder. It’s essentially a matter of days.”
The report also added that vendors had tried to put money into the newspaper’s account, but it was rejected. In addition, the daily’s Chief Editor Ryan Law and Chief Executive Cheung Kim-hung were denied bail on 19 June, after they were accused of colluding with a foreign country.
Earlier, 500 police officers had raided the newspaper’s offices, when they had arrested three other executives. While the trio are under investigation, they were later released from police custody.
Addressing a press conference, Security Secretary John Lee had said that police action on the daily was only meant for those who use journalism as a ‘tool’ to endanger national security.
- Meanwhile, China’s Foreign Commissioner’s office said that the national security law protected press freedom, while warning external forced to “keep their hands off Hong Kong.”
- A Reuters report in May had revealed that Hong Kong’s security chief had sent letters to Lai, HSBC and Citibank, threatening them with seven years in prison if they had any dealings with the billionaire's accounts in the city.
The newspaper, which has about 600 journalists, has been under pressure after its owner Lai, who’s critical of Beijing, was arrested and subsequently jailed under the national security act in August 2020.
(With inputs from the BBC and Reuters.)