09/06/2021, 13.56
HONG KONG - CHINA
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Hong Kong security law shuts down Next Digital, publisher of Apple Daily

Targeted by authorities, Jimmy Lai's pro-democracy daily stopped publishing in June. Calls for Next Digital liquidation to pay off outstanding debts. The executive never said which incriminated articles violated the law. The Tiananmen massacre vigil organising committee also accused of "colluding" with foreign forces.

 

 

Hong Kong (AsiaNews) - Today the board of directors of Next Digital, the holding company that owns Apple Daily, an independent newspaper founded by publishing magnate Jimmy Lai, was dissolved. The pro-democracy newspaper closed on June 24 after it labelled a threat to national security, saw a series of arrests among its managers and journalists, and the freezing of assets for 18 million HK dollars (about 2 million euros).

Due to the "climate of fear" created by Beijing's security law, the last four directors of Next Digital announced their resignation last night. They asked the authorities to put the company into liquidation in order to pay shareholders, creditors and former employees. Under orders from the city's Security Department, the Apple Daily publishing company has been unable to draw on other funds, or proceeds from the sale of its sister publication in Taiwan, to pay off its outstanding debts.

The charge laid against the Apple Daily staffers is "colluding with foreign forces." In their announcement yesterday, the four Next Digital administrators note, however, that under the Security Act "a company can be forced to close without court intervention." So far, the defendants have faced no trial and received no formal indictments.

Jimmy Lai has been in jail since December for his role in the 2019 anti-government demonstrations; he is awaiting trial (expected to begin in October) for allegedly violating the National Security Act.

Next Digital's management also points out that Carrie Lam's executive never specified which Apple Daily articles  violated the Security Act. This uncertainty, Lai's company board argues, has generated fear and prompted many employees to resign.

According to its critics, the draconian security measure has such wide reach that it can be used to target all kinds of behavior. This week it's the turn of the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China, which every year on June 4 organizes the traditional vigil in memory of the 1989 Tiananmen massacre. Police accuse the group of being supported by foreign agents. Yesterday, the leaders of the Alliance rejected the accusation, stressing that they are in fact "agents", but of the "conscience of the citizens of Hong Kong".

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