(AP) — Hong Kong's pro-democracy Apple Daily
newspaper will close this weekend after police
arrested five editors and executives and froze $2.3 million in assets associated with the paper.
In a statement issued Wednesday, the board of directors
stated that the print and online editions will cease no later than Saturday due to “the current circumstances prevailing in Hong Kong.”
The move came as a surprise after the arrests of five people
last week on suspicion of conspiring with foreigners to endanger national security
. Police cited more than 30 articles published by the paper as evidence of an alleged conspiracy
to impose foreign sanctions
on Hong Kong and China
The freezing of assets was the final nail in the coffin for the paper; earlier this week, the board of directors wrote to Hong Kong's security bureau requesting the release of some of the company's funds so that it could pay wages.
The police operation against Apple Daily drew condemnation from the United States
, the European Union
, and the United Kingdom
, which claim that Hong Kong and Chinese authorities are targeting the freedoms promised to the city when the former British
colony was returned to China in 1997.
Officials in both China and Hong Kong have stated that the media
must follow the law
and that press freedom
cannot be used as a "shield" for illegal activities.
The board confirms the demise of Apple Daily HK: https://t.co/dXxA4JxxR0
- the final edition of the city's last pro-democracy print newspaper may be Saturday or sooner. https://t.co/mh9TzXyu0y
pic.twitter.com/cVIEKqcTMp — Tom Grundy (@tomgrundy) June 23, 2021
THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE; the original story from the Associated Press
can be found below:
The first person to face trial
under Hong Kong's national security law pleaded not guilty on Wednesday to charges of terrorism and inciting secession after crashing a motorcycle
into police officers while carrying a protest
Tong Ying-kit was arrested on July 1, 2020, a day after the sweeping national security law went into effect in response to massive pro-democracy protests that posed a challenge to Beijing
Tong is accused of driving
into a crowd of officers during a 2019 rally while carrying a flag with the slogan "Liberate Hong Kong, the Revolution of Our Times." Several officers were knocked over, and three were injured.
His trial will set the tone for how Hong Kong handles national security offenses; more than 100 people have been arrested under the security law so far, including prominent pro-democracy activists such as media tycoon Jimmy Lai, publisher of Apple Daily.
According to Apple Daily, which cited unnamed sources, police arrested a 55-year-old man on Wednesday on suspicion of foreign collusion to endanger national security. The man writes editorials for the paper under the alias Li Ping.
Five of the paper's top editors and executives were arrested last week on the same charge of foreign collusion, and authorities searched the newspaper's offices and froze $2.3 million in assets from three companies linked to Apple Daily.
The daily has stated that if authorities do not release some of its assets in order for the company to pay wages, it may cease operations by this weekend.
During anti-government demonstrations demanding broader democratic
freedoms, including universal suffrage, the slogan “Liberate Hong Kong, the revolution of our times” was frequently chanted. Protesters accuse Beijing of breaking a promise made during the 1997 handover of Hong Kong from Britain that the city would retain freedoms not seen elsewhere in China for 50 years.
China responded with harsh measures aimed at silencing opposition voices, such as the national security law, which criminalizes subversion, secession, terrorism, and foreign collusion.
The legislation makes calls for Hong Kong independence illegal, and a government notice issued last July stated that the protest slogan implies a call for independence and the subversion of state power.
Last month, a court ruled that Tong will face trial without a jury, a departure from Hong Kong's common law traditions. Under the national security law, a panel of three judges
can replace jurors, and the city's leader has the authority to appoint judges to hear such cases.
Tong is being tried in the High Court, where sentences are not capped, and the law carries a maximum penalty of life in prison
for serious offenders.
Janice Lo, an Associated Press news assistant, helped write this story.