The Hong Kong daily Apple Daily, head critical of Beijing, announced on Wednesday the closure of its activity just a week after the arrest of its editor-in-chief and four other executives for “conspiring with foreign forces”, a crime typified in the security law that China imposed in Hong Kong. The newspaper could publish its latest edition this Thursday –adds the portal Hong Kong Free Press– after the Hong Kong authorities frozen its assets after accusing the newspaper of violating the aforementioned security law.
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This controversial law contemplates penalties of up to life imprisonment for cases such as secession, subversion, terrorism or collusion with foreign forces, and has been strongly criticized by the city’s pro-democracy movement, which considers that the legislation will not only punish dissent but also it will end the autonomy and freedoms enjoyed by the former British colony.
In a statement, the board of directors of Next Digital, the company that publishes the headline, has indicated that “due to the current circumstances prevailing in Hong Kong, the print edition of Apple Daily will come to an end no later than Saturday, June 26, while digital will cease to be available no later than 11:59 p.m. on the same day. “The company, adds the statement, thanks its readers” for their loyalty and I support “and its journalists, staff and advertisers” its commitment “during the 26 years in which the newspaper was published.
Meanwhile, the newspaper Hong Kong Free Press, which cites close sources, assures that Apple Daily will publish its latest issue tomorrow, Thursday, and that its closure is due to a lack of funds after the Hong Kong Security Bureau last week frozen 18 million Hong Kong dollars (2.32 million dollars, 1.95 million euros) from three Next Digital companies.
Likewise, the Police arrested last Thursday the editor and the director of Apple Daily, accused of “conspiring” to “conspire” with foreign elements, a crime punishable by up to life imprisonment under the national security law imposed by Beijing. The authorities accuse them of publishing at least 30 articles in which they allegedly called for foreign sanctions against local authorities for their repression of the 2019 anti-government protests, according to the local press.
The editor, Cheung Kim-hung – also CEO of Next Digital – and the director, Ryan Law, remain in police custody and will appear again in court on August 13, while three other executives arrested in the same operation they were released on bail pending investigation.
More than 500 troops participated in the raids on the homes of those arrested and in the drafting of Apple Daily, and dozens of computers and hard drives belonging to journalists were seized.
The founder of Apple DailyJimmy Lai, one of the best-known figures in the Hong Kong pro-democracy opposition, is in jail and also faces various charges relating to national security law.
This judicial process has drawn criticism from the local opposition, from Western countries and from international organizations such as Amnesty International (AI), who consider it a new “attack” against press freedom, while both the Hong Kong and Chinese authorities defended the performance.