Apple Daily English and shut down, newspaper may be forced to close early

The Apple Daily, which has been purged by Hong Kong authorities for its support of people’s demands for democracy and freedom, is showing increasing signs of shutting down its operations. After Apple 9:30 News announced its suspension on Monday night (June 21), the English version of Apple Daily and the Apple Finance website also stopped updating from early Tuesday morning (June 22).

Apple Daily has been a key target of the purge since the implementation of the Hong Kong version of the national security law. The National Security Division of the Hong Kong police arrested five executives of Next Media and Apple Daily last Thursday (June 17) on suspicion of “conspiracy to collaborate with foreign countries or forces to endanger national security” and froze the assets of the three companies, totaling HK$18 million (US$2.32 million), putting Apple Daily’s operations in immediate jeopardy. Apple Daily’s operations were immediately thrown into difficulties.

Apple Daily’s top executive told employees on Monday (June 21) that due to a lack of funds, this Friday (June 25) could be the last day of operations for the newspaper if the company’s assets are not unfrozen by authorities. The newspaper’s top executive also told employees that any employee could resign immediately without the original requirement to report in advance. No sooner had the executives said that than Apple’s 9:30 news was taken off the air that night, followed by the suspension of both Apple Daily English and Apple Finance.

The English version of Apple Daily was launched in June last year, with daily translations of selected news stories from the newspaper into English, as well as contributions and interviews from English columnists. The current message on Apple Daily’s English-language website reads: Apple Daily English is ending updates, thank you for your support.

Hong Kong’s Sing Tao Daily reported Tuesday, citing sources, that the Hong Kong government considers Apple Daily’s frozen assets to be “case-related” and under investigation, and that it has a responsibility to ensure that the parties concerned do not continue to break the law, so it will not approve the unfreezing of the assets.

Under the double whammy of political pressure from the NSA investigation and economic pressure from the asset freeze, Apple Daily is in a very difficult position.

Sources within Apple Daily indicate that most of its staff have resigned, and it is questionable whether the newspaper will be able to maintain normal operations.

Taiwan’s Central News Agency (CNA) quoted sources as saying that the newspaper may not have a big problem in maintaining operations on Tuesday, but whether it can continue to operate on Wednesday (June 23) depends on how many employees can go to work. If too few employees show up for work, the newspaper may not be able to wait until Friday and may shut down on Wednesday.

Next Media Group and Apple Daily founder Lai Chi-ying, Next Media Group CEO Cheung Kin-hung and Apple Daily editor-in-chief Lo Wai-kwong have all been arrested, detained and charged with “conspiracy to collaborate with foreign countries or forces outside the country to endanger national security.

State Department spokesman John Price said Monday (June 21) that the U.S. is “deeply concerned” that Apple Daily may be forced to cease operations.

We continue to be deeply concerned about the selective use of national security laws by the Hong Kong authorities,” he said. We have seen the authorities use it in egregious ways, including arbitrarily targeting independent media outlets. The allegations, including ‘conspiracy to collude with foreign or offshore forces to endanger national security,’ are purely politically motivated. I would say that we are generally concerned that the authorities are increasingly using it as a tool to silence independent media, stifle dissent and stifle freedom of expression.”

Price said, “We will continue to stand with the people of Hong Kong and with those who are simply fighting to practice the values that should be universal, the freedom of expression embodied by a free press.”