Hong Kong’s popular tabloid Apple Daily will soon be forced to shut down after authorities froze the company’s assets under a new national security law, an adviser to jailed tycoon Jimmy Lai said.
Mark Simon, speaking by phone from the United States, said Next Digital, publisher of the pro-democracy newspaper, will hold a board meeting Monday to discuss how to move forward.
“We thought we’d be able to make it to the end of the month,” Mr. Simon told Reuters on Monday (June 21). “It’s just getting harder and harder. It’s essentially a matter of days.”
He said the freeze order by the city’s security chief last week had crippled the newspaper’s ability to do business.
“Our problem at Apple Daily is not that we don’t have funds, we have HK$50 million dollars in the bank,” Mr. Simon told CNN.
“Our problem is the Secretary of Security and the police will not let us pay our reporters, they will not let us pay our staff, and they will not let us pay our vendors. They have locked up our accounts.”
His comments signal that the closure is imminent even after Apple Daily said on Sunday the freezing of its assets had left the newspaper with cash for “a few weeks” for normal operations.
The news comes two days after chief editor Ryan Law, 47, and chief executive Cheung Kim-hung, 59, were denied bail after being charged with collusion with a foreign country.
Three other executives were also arrested last Thursday when 500 police officers raided the newspaper’s offices in a case that has drawn condemnation from Western nations, global rights groups and the chief UN spokesman for human rights.
The three have been released on bail.
Mr. Simon told Reuters it had become impossible to conduct banking operations.
“Vendors tried to put money into our accounts and were rejected. We can’t bank. Some vendors tried to do that as a favour. We just wanted to find out and it was rejected,” he said.
“These are all orders from basically the Secretary of Security, we are facing a security agency we are not facing courts.”
The newspaper has come under increasing pressure since owner and staunch Beijing critic Jimmy Lai, who is now in jail, was arrested under the national security law last August and has since had some of his assets frozen.
Three companies related to Apple Daily are also being prosecuted for collusion with a foreign country and the authorities have frozen HK$18 million (S$3.12 million) of their assets. (Source: The Straits Times)