The Next Media and Apple Daily logos to be seen at their Hong Kong headquarters on June 22, 2021.
Peter Parks | AFP | Getty Images
Controversial Hong Kong pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily said Wednesday it would shut down at midnight – just hours after police arrested another employee who allegedly violated the controversial national security law.
Pressure on Apple Daily ahead of its closure has raised concerns about press freedom in Hong Kong – a semi-autonomous region under Chinese rule.
It follows a controversial national security law that went into effect last year and which Beijing says aims to ban secession, subversion of state power, terrorist activities and foreign interference.
Apple Daily said in a statement that its last printed edition will be released on Thursday and that its website will stop updating from midnight onwards. The publisher of the newspaper Next Digital had previously said in a separate statement that the newspaper would be closed no later than Saturday due to “the current circumstances in Hong Kong”.
The newspaper has come under increasing pressure since its owner, media magnate Jimmy Lai, who is a sharp critic of the Chinese central government, was arrested last year on the basis of national security law. Lai is now in jail and some of his assets have been frozen.
A Lai adviser told Reuters on Monday that the newspaper must shut down “in a few days” after authorities freeze the company’s assets under the Security Act.
Last week around 500 police officers searched the newspaper’s offices, while some executives and employees were arrested on suspicion of collusion with other countries.
State Department spokesman Ned Price said in the aftermath of the raid that Washington was “deeply concerned about the selective use of the national security law by Hong Kong authorities to arbitrarily target independent media organizations.”
Hong Kong is a former British colony that returned under Chinese rule in 1997. At the time, China agreed to rule the city under a “one country, two systems” framework that would give Hong Kong people limited voting rights and a largely separate legal and economic system.
The national security law in Hong Kong was implemented by Beijing last year without going through the legislature of the semi-autonomous region.
China critics – including democracy activists and some governments like the US and UK – have accused Beijing of undermining Hong Kong’s autonomy.