Beijing, Jun 23 (EFE).- Hong Kong newspaper Apple Daily, a publication critical of Beijing, announced its closure Wednesday just a week after the arrest of its editor-in-chief and four other executives for “conspiring with foreign forces,” under a controversial law imposed by mainland China.
The newspaper could publish its latest edition Thursday, according to Hong Kong Free Press portal after the Hong Kong authorities freeze its assets after accusing the newspaper of violating the aforementioned security law.
This controversial law carries 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. It considers the law not only punish dissent but also ends 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 paper, said Wednesday 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, Jun. 26.” It added that digital print will cease to be available no later than 11:59 p.m. on the same day.
The company, the statement added, thanks its readers “for their loyalty and support” and its journalists, staff and advertisers for “their commitment” during the 26 years in which the newspaper was published.
Meanwhile, the Hong Kong Free Press, which cited close sources, said Apple Daily would publish its latest edition Thursday and that its closure is due to lack of funds after the Hong Kong Security Office froze HKD 18 million ($ 2.32 million dollars) last week from three Next Digital companies.
Police on Thursday arrested Apple Daily’s editor and director, accused of “conspiring” with foreign elements, a crime punishable by up to life imprisonment under the national security law.
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 under 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 the 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 the national security law.
This judicial process has drawn criticism from the local opposition, from Western countries and from international organizations such as Amnesty International, who consider it a new “attack” against press freedom, while both the Hong Kong and Chinese authorities defended the move. EFE