Hong Kong pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily says it will close by Saturday

·2-min read
A police cordon is set up outside Apple Daily headquarters in Hong Kong (AP)
A police cordon is set up outside Apple Daily headquarters in Hong Kong (AP)

Pro-democracy paper Apple Daily has announced its closure in a major blow to media freedom in Hong Kong.

The tabloid confirmed it will close its doors by Saturday, buckling under financial pressure from authorities following an assets freeze.

Hong Kong police arrested a columnist from the newspaper on Wednesday morning, in the latest move in a media crackdown.

The force confirmed a 55-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of conspiring to collude with a foreign country or foreign forces. He was apprehended under the national security law which saw hundreds of officers raid the newsroom last week.

Apple Daily later identified the man as a lead opinion writer who writes under the name Li Ping. A reporter was also arrested, according to Next Digital which publishes the tabloid.

It comes after police froze assets of companies linked to the newspaper and arrested five executives last week.

Police have said dozens of Apple Daily pieces may have violated the security law, the first instance of authorities taking aim at media articles under the legislation.

Apple Daily headquarters (REUTERS)
Apple Daily headquarters (REUTERS)

Rights groups, media organisations and Western governments have criticised the government’s actions and expressed concern over freedom of the press and other rights in Hong Kong.

A police representative said they had no immediate information on a second arrest.

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said on Tuesday that criticism of last week’s raid and arrests amounted to attempts to “beautify” acts that endangered national security.

The wider context

So far, more than 100 people have been arrested under Hong Kong’s national security law.

Apple Daily has come under increasing pressure since its owner, and staunch Beijing critic, Jimmy Lai was arrested last year under the contentious legislation.

Lai, whose assets have also been frozen under the national security law, is already serving a prison sentence for taking part in unauthorised assemblies.

The security law came into effect on June 30 2020 and is widely seen as a means to curb dissent after anti-government protests rocked Hong Kong the previous year.

Standing trial

A man has become the first person to stand trial under the national security law.

Tong Ying-kit pleaded not guilty to charges of terrorism and inciting secession by driving a motorcycle into police officers while carrying a protest flag.

It follows his arrest on July 1, 2020, a day after the sweeping law took effect in response to massive pro-democracy protests that challenged Beijing’s rule.

He was accused of driving into a crowd of officers during a 2019 rally while bearing a flag with the slogan: “Liberate Hong Kong, the revolution of our times.”

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