Pro-democracy Apple Daily English halted
Police have arrested its top executives, including founder Jimmy Lai, and frozen assets worth millions. Without funds, the paper will stop this week-end. Some employees have already resigned. Hong Kong’s chief executive ignores questions from one of the paper’s reporters.
Hong Kong (AsiaNews) – Apple Daily today discontinued its online English service and suspended its financial news.
The decision is the first step to the likely closure of the newspaper founded by jailed media mogul Jimmy Lai, targeted by the government for his support for democracy in the former British colony.
The paper’s management said yesterday that it could fold by next Saturday since it is running out of funds after its assets were frozen for allegedly violating China’s national security law.
The authorities have already frozen 70 per cent of Lai’s shares in Next Digital, the holding company that publishes the newspaper.
Last Saturday, the Security Bureau arrested five newspaper executives, including editor-in-chief Ryan Law, on charges of conspiring with foreign forces.
On the same day, the authorities blocked HK million (US$ 2.3 million) of the paper’s assets. Immediately after the arrests. Next Digital suspended trading on the stock exchange.
Ronson Chan, president of the Hong Kong Association of Journalists, told RTHK that several employees have already quit the paper.
An Apple Daily reporter today asked Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam repeated questions about what is happening to the newspaper he works for, but received no response.
“You said the national security law won't affect press freedom, but me and many of my colleagues will no longer be able to cover the news anymore,” the veteran political correspondent shouted. “Can you respond?”
But Lam ignored him and headed straight for the exit. During the press conference, Lam had insisted that the arrest of several senior Apple Daily and Next Digital executives had nothing to do with journalism and the move could not be described as suppression of press freedom.
Local journalists beg to differ, pointing out that in the current climate it is increasingly difficult for them to ask government officials the questions that Hong Kong citizens consider really important.