The parent company of Hong Kong pro-democracy Apple Daily newspaper announced Wednesday that it will shut down the publication this week.
Next Digital, owns Apple Daily and is one of the largest media company in Hong Kong, released a statement saying the final print and online editions of Apple Daily will be published no later than Saturday, June 26, citing “the current circumstances prevailing in Hong Kong.” Local news outlets say the Apple Daily’s final print edition will come out as soon as Thursday.
Apple Daily and its 73-year-old publisher, Next Digital founder and owner Jimmy Lai, have been the target of Hong Kong authorities since China imposed a strict national security law last June in response to the massive and sometimes violent anti-government protests in 2019.
The newspaper’s offices were raided last August after Lai was arrested at his house on suspicion of foreign collusion.
The decision to shut down Apple Daily comes nearly a week after more than 500 police officers raided the newspaper’s offices and arrested its chief editor, Ryan Law, and four other executives with the newspaper and Next Digital. Authorities then froze $2.3 million of its assets, leaving the company unable to pay its staffers.
Law and Chief Executive Officer Cheung Kim-hung have been charged with colluding with a foreign country and have been denied bail.
Hong Kong authorities have cited dozens of articles published by Apple Daily it says violated the security law, which targets anyone authorities suspected of carrying out terrorism, separatism, subversion of state power or collusion with foreign forces.
Reports out of Hong Kong say another Apple Daily staffer was arrested Wednesday. The staffer has been identified as the newspaper’s lead editorial writer and columnist.
Hong Kong police issued a report saying a 55-year-old man had been arrested on suspicion of conspiring to collude with a foreign country or foreign forces.
Lai is currently serving a 14-month prison sentence for taking part in separate unauthorized assemblies in 2019. His assets in Next Digital were frozen by the government last month.
The announcement Wednesday of Apple Daily’s closure came as Tong Ying-kit, a 24-year-old Hong Kong man, became the first defendant to be tried under the city’s national security law.
Tong is charged with terrorism and inciting secession for displaying a flag on his motorbike that read “Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our times,” a slogan popularized during the massive 2019 anti-government protests that prompted the new law. He faces life in prison if he is convicted.