Beijing, Jun 24 (EFE).- Hundreds of Hong Kong residents queued in the early hours of Thursday morning outside the Apple Daily headquarters and at newsstands to get their hands on the final issue of the pro-democracy newspaper after authorities froze its assets and arrested executives.
Publisher Next Digital announced Wednesday the end of both print and digital issues of the newspaper due to the “current circumstances prevailing, in Hong Kong,” where five of its executives have been arrested in recent days accused of “collusion with a foreign country or with external elements to endanger national security,” in violation of the Beijing-imposed national security law.
After midnight, many people gathered at the headquarters of Apple Daily – known to be critical of Beijing – to purchase the last issue of the newspaper, which on Thursday saw a special print run of 1 million copies after 26 years of existence.
“I feel like seeing a family member who is going to die tonight. I am extremely sad. After tonight, something will be gone for good,” said Sung, who went to the newspaper’s headquarters to show his support for the daily.
“Apple Daily is a symbol of freedom in Hong Kong, the conscience and courage of Hong Kongers. It is the only newspaper that’s been stubbornly trying to safeguard our freedom till the end. It’s the only light in the darkness, and now the light is being put out abruptly,” he added.
Last Thursday, more than 500 police officers entered the Apple Daily premises, seized computers and documents, and arrested executives under the security law, which can impose life imprisonment for convictions.
The law has been strongly criticized by the city’s pro-democracy movement, which believes that the legislation will not only punish dissent but also end the autonomy and freedoms enjoyed by the former British colony.
The Hong Kong authorities used that same accusation when freezing the company’s assets, and cited more than 30 published articles as evidence of police allegations of conspiracy to encourage international sanctions on the governments of Beijing and Hong Kong.
Next Digital CEO Cheung Kim-hung and Apple Daily Editor-in-Chief 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.
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. EFE