Sun, 02 Oct 2022

Hong Kong, June 23 (ANI): Hong Kong's Apple Daily pro-democracy newspaper on Wednesday announced that it is shutting its operations earlier than expected and will stop publishing online from midnight.

The newspaper said it its management decided to run its last print edition Thursday.The directors of Next Digital the 26-year-old tabloid-style newspaper's parent company, had decided the newspaper would cease all forms of publication on Saturday at the latest, South China Morning Post (SCMP) reported citing a press release.

The moves come after another of its journalists was arrested under the National Security Law.

But a notice appeared later on the Apple Daily website saying management would stop publishing before then because of limited manpower and to protect its staff.

"The company will soon announce arrangements for staff and subscribers. Apple Daily thanks readers, subscribers, advertisers and Hongkongers for their great support in the last 26 years. Goodbye and take care," the online article said.

It later emerged the landlord of Apple Daily Printing Limited's Tseung Kwan O headquarters was taking back the site, accusing the tenants of breaching lease conditions but citing legal reasons for refusing to disclose further information.

The move followed Apple Daily founder Jimmy Lai Chee-Ying and two senior executives from Next Digital were charged last December with fraud, accused of improperly subleasing office space at the paper's headquarters to secretarial firm Dico between 2016 and 2020.

Earlier on Wednesday, Hong Kong's national security police detained the paper's lead editorial writer on suspicion of conspiracy to collude with foreign forces, the first such arrest under the Beijing-imposed legislation.

Since the arrest of five of its top executives last Thursday, Apple Daily has lost nearly half its workforce. But those remaining on Tuesday vowed to carry on through the end.

The European Union said the closure of Apple Daily operations clearly showed the national security law - which bans acts of subversion, secession, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces - was being used to "stifle freedom of the press and the free expression of opinions".

"Its closing seriously undermines media freedom and pluralism, which are essential for any open and free society. The erosion of press freedom is also counter to Hong Kong's aspirations as an international business hub," an EU spokeswoman said.

Last week, police raided Apple Daily's headquarters and arrested five executives. Lai had launched Next magazine as part of his Next Media group, now known as Next Digital. (ANI)

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