Hong Kong, China – Hong Kong’s pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily will print its final edition “no later than Saturday”, bosses confirmed Wednesday after police froze accounts and arrested staff using a new national security law.
Apple Daily has long been a thorn in Beijing’s side, with unapologetic support for the city’s pro-democracy movement and caustic criticism of China’s authoritarian leaders.
Authorities have made no secret of their desire to see the newspaper silenced and have used a sweeping new national security law to bring about its demise.
Its owner Jimmy Lai is in jail and was among the first to be charged under the law after its imposition last year.
Over the last week, authorities used the law to raid the paper’s newsroom, arrest six staff members, and freeze assets.
The last move left the paper unable to pay staff or vendors.
On Wednesday, the board members of Apple Daily’s parent company Next Digital confirmed the 26-year-old paper would publish its last edition “no later than Saturday” while its website would go offline at 11.59pm that day.
China imposed a security law on Hong Kong last year to stamp out dissent after the city was convulsed by huge and often violent democracy protests.
Authorities say their national security prosecution of Apple Daily was sparked by articles and columns written over the last year that allegedly supported international sanctions against China, a view now deemed as illegal.
It is the first time the political views and opinion published by a media outlet in Hong Kong — a regional international press hub — has triggered the security law.
More than 500 police officers raided the paper’s newsroom last Thursday, carting away computers and notepads.
Five executives, including chief editor Ryan Law and CEO Cheung Kim-hung, were detained on charges of colluding with foreign forces to undermine China’s national security.
Law and Cheung were charged on Saturday and remanded into custody.
On Wednesday police arrested a senior columnist from Apple Daily on the same charge.
Yeung Ching-kee — who writes under the pen name Li Ping — was one of the paper’s top columnists and the lead writer of their editorials, which express the editorial board’s official views.