Hong Kong’s Apple Daily Newspaper to Close After Government Choked Off Funds

HONG KONG—Apple Daily, Hong Kong’s defiant pro-democracy newspaper that drew the ire of China’s leaders, said it would print its final issue Thursday, ending an era of unfettered reporting critical of Beijing in the city’s mainstream print media.

Next Digital Ltd.

, a Hong Kong-listed company that owns the 26-year-old newspaper founded by jailed Beijing critic Jimmy Lai, had said earlier Wednesday that it would cease to exist after a final printed edition no later than Saturday, with its digital version taken offline by the end of that day.

But Apple Daily’s management said it decided to shut down earlier after its publisher made the announcement, citing employees’ safety and staffing considerations. The paper’s website will also stop updating after midnight Wednesday, Apple Daily reported.

The embattled paper has been in Beijing’s firing line since a national-security law was imposed last June to crush dissent in the city roiled by months of antigovernment protests in 2019. Authorities in Hong Kong recently froze company assets, including Mr. Lai’s majority stake, charged two of its top executives under the security law last week and seized journalists’ computers from the newsroom. Mr. Lai, who founded the newspaper in 1995, is in jail for participating in protests and is awaiting trial on alleged national security offenses.

An author of commentaries published in Apple Daily was arrested under the national-security law on Wednesday, according to a report by the newspaper. The latest arrest followed accusations by authorities that Apple Daily had published over 30 articles since 2019 that played a part in a conspiracy to impose sanctions on Hong Kong and China.

“The Company thanks our readers for their loyal support and our journalists, staff and advertisers for their commitment over the past 26 years,” Next Digital said, citing the circumstances prevailing in Hong Kong for its decision.

Next Digital’s board requested this week that the government unfreeze some of its assets so that the company can pay its employees.

Journalist groups in the city and some foreign governments have criticized Hong Kong authorities for targeting Apple Daily, saying it has undermined press freedom in the former British colony. Hong Kong officials have said the newspaper used news as a tool to challenge China’s national security.

Hong Kong police arrested media mogul Jimmy Lai on allegations of foreign collusion under China’s national security law. Video of the businessman being led away from his residence in handcuffs are stoking fears among media companies in the territory. Photo: Vernon Yuen/Shutterstock (Video from 8/10/20)

Write to Elaine Yu at [email protected]

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