Next Digital’s pro-democracy Hong Kong newspaper Apple Daily will stop publication after June 26 if a board meeting on Friday decides to stop operations, an internal memo seen by Reuters shows.
Police raided the newspaper last week in a national security investigation, in which senior Apple Daily executives were arrested for alleged “collusion with a foreign country” and assets of three companies linked to the newspaper were frozen.
On Monday, an adviser to the jailed Next Digital owner and staunch Beijing critic Jimmy Lai, told Reuters the newspaper would be forced to shut “in a matter of days”.
“The board will decide on Friday whether (the company) will continue to operate,” the internal memo said.
“If the board decides not to continue to operate on Friday, online will stop uploading at 23.59pm on the day, newspaper will cease operation after publishing the June 26 edition.”
The company would “accommodate” any immediate resignations, it said.
— Apple Daily HK 蘋果日報 (@appledaily_hk) June 21, 2021
Police have said dozens of Apple Daily articles were suspected of violating a new national security law in the first case in which authorities have cited media articles as potentially violating the contentious legislation.
Editor-in-chief Ryan Law and chief executive officer Cheung Kim-hung were charged with collusion with a foreign country and denied bail on Saturday.
Three other senior executives were also arrested on Thursday and released pending further investigation.
Three companies related to Apple Daily are being prosecuted for collusion with a foreign country and authorities have frozen $HK18 million ($3.1 million) of their assets.
The newspaper said in a Sunday article it was considering challenging the decision to freeze assets in courts, should the Security Bureau reject the request.
The arrests and scale of the Apple Daily raid have been criticised by Western nations, global rights groups, press associations and the chief UN spokesperson for human rights.
Hong Kong and Chinese officials said press freedom cannot be used as a “shield” for those who commit crimes and slammed the criticism as “meddling”.
Next Digital has come under increasing pressure since Lai was arrested last year. Lai, whose assets have also been frozen under the security law, is in jail for taking part in unauthorised assemblies.