Apple Daily to face complete shutdown
The board of Next Digital, the parent company of the pro-secession Apple Daily, decided on Monday to shut down the paper and its digital news service soon, setting the deadline on Friday to make the final decision on the matter amid mounting financial pressure to maintain normal operations, local media reported on Monday.
“Time to say goodbye to the notorious Apple Daily!” Some local residents in Hong Kong told the Global Times on Monday after the board meeting set the date for the possible closure of the paper. If the board decides to halt operations on Friday, its digital news would stop updating on Friday night and its final print edition will come out on Saturday, according to media reports.
The latest board meeting was held after the department for safeguarding national security under the Hong Kong Police Force (HKPF) arrested the editor-in-chief and four directors on suspicion of conspiracy to collude with foreign forces, and froze HK$18 million ($2.3 million) in assets during a Thursday morning operation.
And it was the second time that Apple Daily has been searched since the national security law for Hong Kong came into force on June 30, 2020. The newspaper was founded and owned by Jimmy Lai Chee-ying, who is considered as modern day traitor and faces multiple charges including conspiracy to collude with foreign countries or forces to endanger national security.
“It’s highly possible Apple Daily will shut down on Friday,” Lawrence Ma, barrister and chairman at Hong Kong Legal Exchange Foundation, told the Global Times on Monday.
With the effective implementation of the national security law for Hong Kong, Apple Daily, which played a key role in brainwashing Hong Kong residents and rendered them antagonists while insidiously incited them to criminally destroy the city with the illegal “Occupy Central” in 2014 and black-clad riots in 2019, is about to close, Ma said.
It has poisoned the mind of some Hong Kong people as it has been popular among some groups of young and elderly people, “turning them into anti-government voters, or political terrorists at the extreme,” he added.
Following the latest arrests and freezing of assets, in addition to the bank accounts frozen earlier, Apple Daily has been struggling for funds that it may not be able to maintain its normal operations. While it plans to apply to unfreeze part of its assets to avoid violating labor laws for unpaid wages, the Secretary for Security spokesperson told the Global Times that it will handle the matter in accordance with the law.
Endangering national security is a very severe crime, and freezing the assets of Apple Daily is in line with relevant law that targets all criminal activities, the spokesperson said.
John Lee, Secretary for Security, was also quoted as saying in media reports on Monday that some foreign-aided funds were disguised as funds which were used to support crimes that endanger national security or violate local ordinances, or even help offenders avoid arrest.
Hong Kong authorities will continue focusing on striking funds behind behavior which endangers national security, and one way is to cut off their financing channels by freezing their assets, Lee said, noting that any legal empowerment would be considered when it comes to whether to close down Apple Daily.
Many staff members of Apple Daily have left, and the paper would halt operations as early as Wednesday, according to local media reports.