Hong Kong’s pro-democracy tabloid is on the verge of closing after the government froze its assets last week, restricting its ability to operate.
The freeze on assets follows the arrest of two top executives of the newspaper, who were charged under China’s strict national security law, following the June 17 attack by 500 police officers at Apple Daily. Newspaper owner Jim Imi Lai is already in jail.
Critics say the move marks a new level of press freedom in China, which promised freedom of speech when the city was handed over from the United Kingdom to China in 1997. That changed after Beijing introduced a national security law announcing tough pressure. on civil society և policy.
The crackdown on dissent demonstrated during mass anti-government rallies in 2019 has since spread to previously free-flowing media. But it was the first time police had charged Ryan Lowe, editor-in-chief of Apple Daily, with directing national security law directly against journalists.
One of the last newspapers left with a tough editorial stance against the Hong Kong government, the newspaper has been repeatedly targeted by Chinese officials.
The board of Next Digital, Apple Daily’s parent company, met on Monday and will make a final decision on whether to continue publishing this week, Apple Daily reports. The company plans to apply to the Hong Kong Security Bureau for the defrosting of some of its assets to pay its staff.
The newspaper’s management could not find any other way to support its continued operation, said Mark Simon, Lai’s former senior adviser.
“People’s financing can not work, because banks are instructed not to process any payment. “I have already heard from friends who have not been able to process our payments,” he said.
If the authorities reject the application by the decision expected on Friday, the last article will be published on Saturday, և the news site will stop working at midnight on Friday. Today, staff are allowed to leave work immediately without notice, according to an internal notice seen by the Financial Times.
“They are [police] “They are completely destroying the last line of defense, defending freedom of the press,” a Next Digital journalist told FT.
Law և Next Digital CEO Cheung Kim-Hang was denied bail on Saturday on national security charges. They have been accused of plotting to impose sanctions on Hong Kong to encourage foreign countries by publishing articles encouraging such a move.
Authorities also frozen $ 18 million ($ 2.3 million) of the three companies affiliated with Apple Daily. Shares of Next Digital were still closed on Monday after announcing the closure of trading last Thursday.
Security Minister John on Lee accused the newspaper of criminal activities, saying police actions did not threaten freedom of the press. “They are different from ordinary journalists,” he said last week. “Do not communicate with them.”