Within hours of the Hong Kong police arresting another of its employee for allegedly breaching the controversial national security law, the embattled Hong Kong based pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily said that it will stop all its operations starting on Wednesday midnight.
Concerns over the freedom of the press in Hong Kong — a semi-autonomous region currently under Chinese rule, have emerged following intense pressure on Apple Daily culminating in its closure.
This development comes after the forced implementation of the controversial national security law last year amid massive demonstrations by pro-democracy activists for months. China has said that the new law was formed and implemented for preventing secession, subversion of state power, terrorism activities and foreign interference.
The last print edition of its newspaper will be published on Thursday while the company will stop updating its website from Wednesday midnight, Apple Daily said in a statement. The newspaper will be shut down no later than Saturday because of the “current circumstances prevailing in Hong Kong”, the newspaper’s publisher Next Digital had said earlier.
There has been intense government pressure on the newspaper ever since the arrest last year of its owner media tycoon Jimmy Lai who is a known sever critic of the Chinese central government under the national security law. Lai is currently lodged in jail and some of his assets have been frozen by the authorities.
After authorities froze the company’s assets under the security law, the newspaper will be forced to shut “in a matter of days”, an advisor to Lai had told the media on Monday.
The newspaper’s offices were raised by about 500 policemen last week and some executives and staff were also arrested over suspicion of colluding with a foreign country.
Washington was “deeply concerned by Hong Kong authorities’ selective use of the national security law to arbitrarily target independent media organizations”, said the United States’ State Department spokesman Ned Price.
A former colony of the United Kingdom, Hong Kong was officially returned to China in 1997 under the condition that the “one country, two systems” framework would be applied for governing Hong Kong which would allow the residents to enjoy limited election rights and a largely separate legal and economic system.
Last year, China implemented the national security law in Hong Kong without getting it through the legislature of the semi-autonomous region.
Critics of China — who include pro-democracy activists and some governments such as that of the U.S. and the U.K. — have accused Beijing of undermining Hong Kong’s autonomy.
(Adapted from CNBC.com)