DHARAMSALA, 22 June: Hong Kong’s pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily has announced that it is forced to shut down “in a matter of days” as China uses national security law to tighten its grip on Hong Kong
“We thought we’d be able to make it to the end of the month. It’s just getting harder and harder. It’s essentially a matter of days,” The Reuters quoted Mark Simon, assistant to Apple Daily chairman saying in its report.
Simon, the assistant of jailed owner Jimmy Lai has made the remarks after the authorities in Hong Kong froze the company’s assets under the national security law.
The report quoted another senior company source as saying that freezing of the firm’s core assets without a trial has choked the company.
“This is an extraordinary thing for a place that prides itself on (being) a global financial center, that you haven’t even filed charges against people and yet you’ve decided you’re going to try to … choke this company to death.”
While Hong Kong officials have repeatedly stated that media freedoms are respected but warned are not absolute, Simon has told CNN that a free society can’t exist without a free press.
“Folks, if you don’t have a free press, you do not have a free society.”
The closure of Apple Daily, the report said citing media advocacy groups, ”would undermine the former British colony’s reputation as an open and free society and send a warning to other companies that could be accused of colluding with a foreign country.”
Founded by billionaire businessman Jimmy La, a man highly critical of China, the scrutiny of the Apple Daily began in Aug last year with the arrest of its owner and raid at its headquarters.
As it stands, along with Lai, Chief Editor Ryan Law, 47, Chief Executive Cheung Kim-hung, 59, and three other executives are behind the bars.
While the Chief Editor and Chief Executive of the tabloid-style newspaper were denied bail on Saturday after being charged with conspiracy to commit collusion with a foreign country, the three other executives were arrested on Thursday when 500 police officers raided the newspaper’s offices, a move that drew spate of condemnation from the west, global rights groups and the U.N. spokesperson for human rights as well.
National security law, the controversial legislation imposed on 30 June last year punishes anything Beijing considers secession, subversion, terrorism, or collusion with foreign forces with up to life in prison and the law still continues to draw heavy international criticism from world leaders and right groups alike.