Apple Daily, Hong Kong’s only pro-democracy print newspaper, will end its 26-year run by midnight Thursday. The paper, long a target of pro-Beijing forces, has run out of money to pay its 800 employees following the government’s move to freeze its assets.
Police arrested five of its editors and executives and raided its newsroom last week, alleging the newspaper breached Hong Kong’s national security law by colluding with foreign powers.
Apple Daily’s board of directors decided on Wednesday that Thursday would be the last issue of the newspaper. The crackdown is a significant blow to Hong Kong’s press, which had previously enjoyed broad freedoms, and an example of the expansive reach of last year’s national security law in silencing dissent in all sectors of society.
Five hundred police officers descended on Apple Daily’s headquarters on Thursday of last week, barring reporters from their desks and carrying away more than 40 computers. Earlier in the day, they arrested editor-in-chief Ryan Law; Cheung Kim-hung, CEO of Next Digital, Apple Daily’s parent company; associate publisher Chan Pui-man; platform director Cheung Chi-wai; and Next Digital COO Royston Chow. Authorities also froze assets of companies connected with Apple Daily: Apple Daily Limited, Apple Daily Printing Limited, and AD Internet Limited. The Beijing-imposed national security law punishes violators with up to life imprisonment.
Hong Kong Secretary for Security John Lee accused the newspaper of using journalism as “a tool for actions that endanger national security.” Authorities claim more than 30 Apple Daily articles, some dating back to 2019, have called for foreign sanctions on Hong Kong and mainland China. They have not disclosed the articles involved.
“Journalism is not a crime,” Next Media Trade Union wrote in a statement. The group called the crackdown a “blatant violation of freedom of press in the name of national security” and said the warrant allowing the police to search and seize journalistic materials will “damage public confidence in the press, deterring them from agreeing to interviews or providing information, [and] would weaken the role of the press as the Fourth Estate.”
The raid was the second on the pro-democracy publication since August, when police arrested Apple Daily founder Jimmy Lai. A Roman Catholic and outspoken critic of Beijing, Lai is currently serving a 20-month prisonsentence for unlawful assemblies and faces other charges, including foreign collusion. The government also froze his assets, worth $64.3 million.
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