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Rabu, 23 Juni 2021

Apple Daily to stop printing from Saturday - Sydney Morning Herald

By Eryk Bagshaw
Updated

Singapore: Apple Daily, the last pro-democracy newspaper in Hong Kong and a powerful voice in the city’s political and social landscape for almost three decades, will close on Saturday, becoming the highest-profile media casualty of Hong Kong’s national security laws.

The newspaper has been raided twice by hundreds of Hong Kong police in the past 12 months, at least seven editors and executives have been arrested on suspicion of colluding with foreign forces, including billionaire owner Jimmy Lai. The newspapers assets were frozen last week in a move that stopped the company’s ability to pay staff and suppliers, triggering mass resignations from employees who now fear for their own safety.

Apple Daily will stop publishing from Saturday.

Apple Daily will stop publishing from Saturday. Credit:Bloomberg

The tabloid-style publication mixed entertainment gossip with often controversial investigations and a fierce defence of Hong Kong’s civil liberties. Its calls for sanctions to be implemented on Hong Kong to stop the crackdown on the pro-democracy movement would trigger the arrest of its editors, executives and an editorial writer over the past week.

In a statement released on Wednesday, the newspaper’s parent company Next Digital said due to the current circumstances in Hong Kong, the newspaper’s final edition would be published on Saturday, June 26 and the website would be shut down from midnight that day.

“The company thanks our readers for their loyal support and our journalists, staff and advertisers for their commitment over the past 26 years,” the board said in a statement.

Apple Daily founder Jimmy Lai, centre, was arrested in April last year.

Apple Daily founder Jimmy Lai, centre, was arrested in April last year.Credit:AP

Jane Poon, a former Next Digital editor, said staff who have just lost their jobs, colleagues and livelihoods still feared for their futures.

“They are still under a risk of prosecution,” she said. “The national security laws will trace after the articles released before the laws came into force.”

Journalists, who asked not to be identified because they were concerned about their safety, said they did not know if they would be able to work in an increasingly government-controlled environment.

“If Apple Daily is banned I don’t know if I would still be a journalist anymore,” said one editor.

The company’s Next Magazine announced on Wednesday it would also stop publishing this week.

“I’ve run out of tears at this historic juncture,” editor Wong Lai-sheung said in a letter posted on the magazine’s website. “What I need to do in this turbulent environment is to suppress my emotions and pave the way for our retreat.”

The laws, implemented by Beijing last year to quell more than 18 months of unrest over China’s rising influence, have resulted in more than 100 pro-democracy activists being jailed and a dozen others fleeing into exile.

Films deemed to be a threat to the Chinese state are now being censored and Hong Kong’s public broadcaster RTHK has seen a wave of resignations after a government crackdown on editorial standards.

Hong Kong’s largest English-language newspaper The South China Morning Post is owned by Chinese giant Alibaba.

Steve Li, the superintendent of Hong Kong’s national security unit, accused the Apple Daily of publishing 30 articles that supported foreign sanctions on Hong Kong. “The questionable articles play a very crucial part in the conspiracy,” he said.

Lai, was paraded through its newsroom last year by Hong Kong police over allegations he had colluded with foreign forces. He had earlier met with former US vice-president Mike Pence and secretary of state Mike Pompeo in 2019 to discuss his concerns about Beijing’s rising influence in the global financial hub.

The media tycoon, who as a 12-year-old was smuggled into Hong Kong on a fishing boat and transformed himself into a billionaire, has been in prison since April.

His case was moved to the High Court on June 15 where he faces the prospect of life behind bars.

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2021-06-23 07:38:38Z
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