Apple Daily, a pro-democracy pro-democracy newspaper in Hong Kong that has come under intense pressure from authorities, said on Wednesday it would cease operations this week.
Police also arrested one of Apple Daily’s opinion writers on Wednesday in an investigation that raised concerns about the state of media freedoms in the city.
The board of directors of Next Digital, the parent company of Apple Daily, said the newspaper would stop publishing in print and online by Saturday, after police froze accounts last week and arrested editors chief and senior staff.
The shutdown will silence one of the city’s largest and most aggressive media outlets, underlining the wide reach of the security law imposed on Hong Kong by Beijing last year. Apple Daily has been a thorn in the side of the Chinese Communist Party for decades, and Beijing has long targeted its founder, Jimmy Lai, for its criticism of Chinese and Hong Kong authorities.
Police raided the Apple Daily newsroom last Thursday, arresting two senior executives and three editors. On Wednesday, they arrested another reporter, Yeung Ching-kee, who wrote articles and op-eds for the newspaper.
Mr. Yeung, who uses the pseudonym Li Ping, wrote last year that the Chinese Communist Party and its allies in Hong Kong “have decided to strangle Apple Daily, to kill press freedom and freedom of the press. expression in Hong Kong ”.
“Even when the democratic world increased the sanctions against them, they would only intensify the crackdown and prosecution of Apple Daily, in the hope that they would succumb to the pressure and surrender or stop publishing,” a- he writes.
Last week, authorities in Hong Kong froze Apple Daily bank accounts, making it impossible to pay staff and suppliers. Mark Simon, an employee of Apple Daily owner Jimmy Lai, said on Monday that with the newspaper’s accounts closed, he could not pay staff or receive payments from suppliers.
Ryan Law, editor of Apple Daily, and Cheung Kim-hung, chief executive of Next Digital, have been charged with conspiracy to collude with foreign powers under the Security Act. They were denied bail.
Mr. Law and Mr. Cheung have been accused of conspiring with Mr. Lai to seek sanctions against Hong Kong, which constitutes a violation of the security law. Last year, the United States imposed sanctions on Hong Kong and Chinese authorities following Beijing’s crackdown on the city.
Mr. Lai, who is serving a 20-month prison term for unlawful assembly, has also been charged with violations of the National Security Act. He faces a potential life sentence.
After making his first fortune in clothing, Mr. Lai continued his media activities after the bloody crackdown on the Tiananmen protest movement in 1989.
“I made enough money for my life,” he told The New York Times last year. “I said, OK, let’s go to the media, because I believe in the media by providing information, you are actually offering freedom.”
Mr. Lai’s posts pursued celebrity gossip and political scandals with equal verve. But Beijing has also identified him as one of its main enemies in Hong Kong and criticized him for stoking the massive anti-government protests that erupted in 2019.
He anticipated his arrest under National Security Law in an op-ed for the New York Times on May 29 last year, writing that since Hong Kong returned to China in 1997, he feared the Communist Party “Not only gets tired of Hong Kong. The free press of Kong but also of its free people.
The National Security Law “will mark the end of freedom of expression and many individual freedoms so dear to the city,” he wrote. “Hong Kong moves from the rule of law to the state by law, the Chinese Communist Party determining all the new rules of this game,” he wrote.