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Hong Kong pro-democracy paper Apple Daily announces closure

Founder Jimmy Lai — already in jail for attending a pro-democracy rally — has been arrested and charged with colluding with foreign forces to endanger national security.

SNS | Hong Kong |

Hong Kong’s largest pro-democracy paper Apple Daily has announced its closure, in a major blow to media freedom in the city.  One year was all it took for a Beijing-imposed National Security Law to take down Hong Kong’s largest and loudest pro-democracy newspaper.

Next Media announced on Wednesday that Apple Daily, its flagship tabloid, would stop publishing on Saturday due to an untenable environment in which its journalists had been arrested and millions of dollars in assets had been frozen.
The publication’s offices were raided last week over allegations that several reports had breached the city’s National Security Law. Company-linked assets worth $18 million were late frozen. Police also detained its chief editor and five other executives. Its founder Jimmy Lai is already in jail on a string of charges. The tabloid is known to be critical of the Hong Kong and China leadership.

Apple Daily had earlier said it would decide whether or not to close the publication at a meeting on Friday, but the announcement by its parent company was made on Wednesday instead.

It also revealed that it only had enough cash to continue normal operations for “several weeks”.

The news sent a deep chill through Hong Kong’s media industry and undermined government claims the new legislation would not diminish press freedom.
Last year, China’s ruling Communist Party moved to bring Hong Kong in line with its authoritarian rule by bypassing the city’s legislature to implement the security law. It punishes anything the authorities deemed to be subversion, secession, terrorism, and collusion with foreign forces with up to life in prison.
While city leader Carrie Lam said back then that press freedoms would still be protected, Apple Daily staffers say they knew it was only a matter of time before they were targeted.
“But it still came as a shock when it happened,” said one journalist at the publication, who asked to remain anonymous out of security fears.
Since the law took effect, Apple Daily has been crippled bit by bit. Founder Jimmy Lai — already in jail for attending a pro-democracy rally — has been arrested and charged with colluding with foreign forces to endanger national security. Five of the newspaper’s top editors and executives have been accused of the same crime, apparently for using articles to call for foreign governments to sanction Hong Kong.
Jimmy Lai founded Apple Daily in 1995, channeling the wealth he’d accumulated as a textile tycoon into the Next Digital publishing operation. The mission of its centerpiece title, Apple Daily, was always clear: to criticize the Communist Party that Lai had fled mainland China from as a child.
On Wednesday, as the board met to discuss the paper’s future, police officers again descended on the newsroom arresting two more journalists. Hours later, the paper announced that after 26 years on newsstands, it would close its doors.
“A woman sent me a note a few days ago saying without Apple Daily she just doesn’t feel as safe as she used to with a free press is the protector of society,” said Mark Simon, one of Lai’s top advisers.
“They’re coming for everyone else soon.”