In a major blow to free speech and media freedom in Hong Kong, the city’s largest pro-democracy paper Apple Daily has announced its closure.
The publication’s offices were raided last week over allegations that several reports had breached a controversial national security law.
Police detained its chief editor and five other executives while company-linked assets thought to be worth HK$18million were later frozen by the authorities.
The tabloid has been widely critical of the Hong Kong and Chinese leadership and its founder Jimmy Lai is already in jail on a string of charges.
Mark Simon, a close adviser of Jimmy Lai, told how the police had disrupted a board meeting earlier on Wednesday and arrested one journalist. He said:
“We are already closing to be honest, but they still had to show up and to make an arrest. The police wanted to influence the outcome of the board meeting… they wanted to make sure Apple Daily closes quickly.”
It’s been confirmed that a 55-year-old man, identified as an Apple Daily columnist, had been arrested on “suspicion of conspiring to collude with a foreign country or foreign forces.”
A statement issued by the 26-year old paper said it would publish its last edition “no later than Saturday” and that the digital version would go offline no later than 11:59 on Saturday evening. The announcement also thanked the readers for their “loyal support” as well as its journalists, staff and advertisers.