Hong Kong's Next Digital says Apple Daily newspaper to end by Saturday


Employees walk at the Apple Daily and Next Digital’s headquarters in Hong Kong on June 23, 2021. - Reuters

HONG KONG (Reuters): Hong Kong's pro-democracy tabloid Apple Daily will stop operating no later than Saturday (June 26), its publisher, Next Digital, said on Wednesday after national security police arrested another employee of the besieged newspaper.

The end of the popular 26-year-old tabloid, which mixes pro-democracy discourse with racy celebrity gossip and investigations of those in power, has escalated alarm over media freedom and other rights in the Chinese-ruled city.

In a statement on its website, Next Digital said the decision to close the newspaper, which employs about 600 journalists, was taken "due to the current circumstances prevailing in Hong Kong."

Police last week froze assets of companies linked to the newspaper and arrested five executives. On Wednesday, it arrested a columnist on suspicion of conspiring to collude with a foreign country or foreign forces.

Authorities 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.

Rights groups, media organisations and Western governments have criticised last week's raid of the Apple Daily newsroom by about 500 officers and seizure of journalistic materials on national security grounds.

Police, who typically do not disclose the names of those arrested, said they had arrested a 55-year-old man on the national security charges. A senior executive at Next Digital, which publishes Apple Daily, said a lead writer for editorials and a reporter were arrested, without identifying them. It was unclear why the reporter was arrested.

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 at Apple Daily amounted to attempts to "beautify" acts that endangered national security.

Apple Daily has come under increasing pressure since its tycoon owner and staunch Beijing critic, Jimmy Lai, was arrested last year under the contentious legislation. Lai, whose assets have also been frozen under the security law, is already serving a prison sentence for taking part in unauthorised assemblies.

On Monday, an adviser to Lai told Reuters Apple Daily would be forced to shut "in a matter of days."

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