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The Hong Kong newspaper Apple Daily, known for its critical stance against Beijing, will be published tomorrow, Thursday, for the last time in its printed version, while the digital version will stop being updated at midnight (16.00 GMT today).
The publishing company of the newspaper, Next Digital, assured that the cessation of its operations is due to the “current situation in Hong Kong”, where several of its executives have been detained by the Communist Party of China, using the authoritarian national security law that Beijing imposed last year in Hong Kong.
The Hong Kong authorities used the same accusation to freeze the assets of the newspaper, which they claim published more than 30 articles in which it called for international sanctions against the governments of Beijing and Hong Kong.
The controversial law provides for sentences of up to life imprisonment for secession, subversion, terrorism or collusion with foreign forces, and has been strongly criticized by the city’s pro-democracy movement, which believes that the legislation will not only punish dissent but also end the autonomy and freedoms that the former British colony once enjoyed.
Hong Kongers are trampled by China
“The forced closure of Apple Daily is the darkest day for press freedom in Hong Kong in recent history,” said Yamini Mishra, Asia-Pacific regional director for human rights group Amnesty International, in a statement.
“This is an unacceptable attack on freedom of expression,” she added. “The fact that the authorities are using the national security law to enable this raid shows the deeply repressive nature of this law.
Last Thursday, more than 500 police officers entered the offices of Apple Daily, seized computers and documents, and arrested the Hong Kong newspaper’s publisher and editor on charges of “conspiracy to conspire with foreign forces,” which could carry up to life imprisonment under the law.
Also last week, Hong Kong security forces ordered the freezing of 18 million Hong Kong dollars (2.32 million dollars, 1.95 million euros) from three Next Digital companies, which has forced the end of the newspaper after 26 years of existence.
The publisher, Cheung Kim-hung – also CEO of Next Digital – and the editor, Ryan Law, remain in police custody and will appear in court again on August 13, while three other executives arrested in the same operation were released on bail pending investigation.
Apple Daily founder Jimmy Lai, one of Hong Kong’s best-known pro-democracy opposition figures, is in jail and also faces several charges under the National Security Act.
“Farewell, Hong Kong”, says Apple Daily
The Apple Daily criticisms cited by Hong Kong authorities go back, among others, to texts condemning the police response to anti-government demonstrations that took to the streets of Hong Kong during the second half of 2019.
These demonstrations initially sought to block the authoritarian extradition law that could have resulted in activists, journalists or dissidents, among others, could have been tried in mainland China, in a judicial system lacking guarantees.
“Farewell, Hong Kongers. Take care,” the newspaper bid farewell today while thanking readers, subscribers, advertisers, and employees for their support.