Apple Daily to shut down at midnight, rolling out last printed edition tomorrow

Jimmy Lai's pro-democracy newspaper is closing three days ahead of schedule to protect its employees. For the authorities, it represents a threaten national security. The paper had funds until Saturday after its assets (US$ 2.3 million) were frozen.

Hong Kong (AsiaNews) – Hong Kong’s Apple Daily newspaper will stop updating its online site at midnight tonight (local time), whilst the printed edition will roll out for a last time tomorrow, the independent newspaper announced today.

The tabloid founded 26 years ago by pro-democracy media mogul Jimmy Lai will stop three days earlier than planned; yesterday it had discontinued its online English service and suspended its financial news.

After the authorities froze its assets for alleged violations of the National Security Act, the newspaper was set to close next Saturday for lack of funds. In a report published on the website, the paper said it had anticipated the closure to protect the safety of its employees.

This came after police arrested another of its employees, a 55-year-old editorial writer who went by the pseudonym “Li Ping”. Like Jimmy Lai and five paper executives, he was charged with collusion with foreign powers endangering national security

Police announced that two other people would be arrested in connection with the case. Lai has been in prison since last December; authorities froze 70 per cent of his shares in Next Digital, the holding company that publishes the newspaper.

On 17 June, Hong Kong’s national security police arrested five Apple Daily executives, including editor-in-chief Executive Ryan Law. On the same day, the authorities blocked HK 18 million (US$ 2.3 million) of the paper’s assets.

Immediately after the arrests. Next Digital suspended trading on the stock exchange. Next Magazine, another part of Lai's publishing group, announced its closure today.

Next Digital has long been in the crosshairs of Hong Kong and mainland authorities for its support of democracy in the former British colony.