Hong Kong pro-democracy tabloid Apple Daily prints final edition

Epoch Times

Hong Kong's sole remaining pro-democracy newspaper published its last edition Thursday after five editors and executives were arrested and millions of dollars in its assets were frozen as part of China's increasing crackdown on dissent in the semi-autonomous city.

The decision is the latest blow to Hong Kong's freedoms and deepens unease over whether the global finance centre can remain a media hub as China seeks to stamp out dissent.

On Wednesday, Apple Daily announced its closure "out of consideration for the safety of its staff".

Small crowds gathered outside the paper's headquarters on Wednesday evening, shouting messages of support and shining mobile phone lights as journalists put together the swansong edition. British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab described it as a "chilling blow to freedom of expression in Hong Kong".

The silencing of a prominent pro-democracy voice was the latest sign of China's determination to exert greater control over the city long known for its freedoms after huge anti-government protests there in 2019 shook the government.

Those same leaders used a new security law to bring about its rapid demise.

Apple Daily has come under increasing pressure since Lai was arrested previous year under the security legislation, which was introduced after months of at times violent pro-democracy protests.

Apple Daily will run its last edition on Saturday - signaling the end to Hong Kong's once freewheeling and muckraking reporting environment as well.

Overnight it took down its website, Twitter and Facebook accounts.

Some 1,000 people have lost their jobs.

"The forced closure of Apple Daily is the blackest day for media freedom in Hong Kong's recent history", Mishra said.

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Its owner Jimmy Lai is in jail and was among the first to be charged under the security law after Beijing imposed it on the city past year following 2019's huge democracy protests.

Authorities have not released a list of Apple Daily's articles or columns that have been deemed a national security crime.

Police, who typically do not disclose the names of those arrested, said one of the people they had detained was a 55-year-old man.

The police on Wednesday also arrested Apple Daily's lead writer for editorials for alleged conspiracy to collude with foreign forces, local media reported, while adding that more arrests could be made.

Police froze assets of the paper and two of its group companies.

The Global Network for Press Freedom called the announcement "devastating news" for press freedom in the city.

But many local and worldwide outlets are questioning whether they have a future there.

Hong Kong and Chinese officials said press freedom can not be used as a "shield" for those who commit crimes, and slammed the criticism as 'meddling'. Mainland China languishes at 177th out of 180, above only Turkmenistan, North Korea and Eritrea. In recent years, it criticized the Chinese and Hong Kong governments for limiting those freedoms.

The case of Tong Ying-kit is seen as a departure from Hong Kong's common law traditions, as he was denied bail and a jury, and a test of the government's claim that the slogan "Liberate Hong Kong!"

Lai is facing charges under the national security law for plotting with foreigners.

Government leader Carrie Lam has stated that legal action against the paper does not constitute an infringement on press freedom as the authorities are targeting law-breaking acts but not normal journalistic work.

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