Apple Daily shuts down
June 24, 2021 - Apple Daily is the latest Hong Kong institution to become a victim of a draconian national security law (NSL) imposed by Beijing on the city last year. The NSL is the mainland’s latest move to stamp out dissent and massive pro-democracy protests.
The closure of Apple Daily undermines the former British colony’s reputation as an open and free society. It sends a warning to other companies that stand accused of colluding with a foreign country.
In August 2020, just weeks after the NSL came into force, Apple Daily’s founder, maverick businessman and pro-democracy activist Jimmy Lai was arrested. Accused of conspiring with foreign powers, 73-year-old Lai successfully applied for bail.
Lai was arrested again in December, charged with fraud and denied bail and imprisoned in the city’s Stanley Prison.
As long ago as November 2019, Xinhua -- China’s state-run news agency -- accused Lai of being the “chief strategist” behind Hong Kong’s protest movement, funding pro-independence forces and asking external elements to meddle in the city’s affairs.
“I’ve long known the communists are very skilful at inducing fear into people to subdue them. A long time ago I stopped reading what they said about me,” Lai said in a Financial Times interview.
On June 17, 2021, Hong Kong authorities prosecuted three companies related to Apple Daily for alleged collusion with a foreign country. They froze HK$18 million ($2.3 million) of their assets.
Next Digital, the publisher of the top-selling 26-year-old newspaper, said on Sunday (June 20), the freezing of its assets had left just “a few weeks of normal operations.”