Hong Kong opposition newspaper could shut this week after police operation
Shanghai, China, Jun 21 (EFE).- Hong Kong newspaper Apple Daily, known for its strong criticism of the Chinese government, will decide this week whether to shut after authorities froze its funds following a police operation prompted by a national security law imposed by Beijing.
According to Hong Kong newspaper South China Morning Post, Apple Daily’s parent company Next Digital will decide Friday whether to close the publication after 26 years.
Apple Daily will ask the Hong Kong Security Bureau to release part of the 18 million Hong Kong dollars ($ 2.32 million) from three group companies frozen last week, as it needs the funds to pay its 1,300 employees before the end of the month.
If authorities reject this request, the newspaper -founded in 1995- will present a judicial appeal and, if unsuccessful, will post its latest news on its digital portal Friday night and launch its final edition Saturday morning.
Police arrested Thursday the editor and the director of Apple Daily, accused of attempting to “conspire” with foreign elements, a crime punishable by life imprisonment by a national security law passed by Beijing a year ago.
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 local press.
Editor Cheung Kim-hung — also CEO of Next Digital — and Director Ryan Law remain in police custody and will appear again in court on Aug. 13, while three other executives arrested in the same operation were released on bail pending investigation.
More than 500 troops participated in raids on the homes of those arrested and on the Apple Daily newsroom, and dozens of computers and hard drives belonging to journalists were seized.
Apple Daily founder Jimmy 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 local opposition, Western countries and international organizations such as Amnesty International, who consider it an “attack” on press freedom, while both Hong Kong and Chinese authorities defended the move.
Hong Kong Security Secretary John Lee said it is a case of “conspiracy” and that it has nothing to do with the work of local journalists.
“Do your journalistic work as freely as you wish, in accordance with the law and assuming that you do not conspire or have intentions to violate Hong Kong law, much less the National Security Law,” he told the media. EFE