Apple Daily, one of Hong Kong’s largest newspapers, said Monday that by the end of the week it could decide to stop publishing, days after the authorities of the former British colony froze 18 million Hong Kong dollars (2.3 million dollars) of its assets after accusing the media of violating the National Security Act.
The newspaper, owned by media tycoon Jimmy Lai – currently in prison – has explained that the last content update on its website would take place at midnight from Friday to Saturday, when the last print copies would also be released.
According to an internal memo accessed by Bloomberg, the measure is subject to the release of these funds, blocked in recent days coinciding with the arrest of some executives of the media owned by Lai, such as the editor-in-chief of ‘Apple Daily’, Ryan Law.
“If the company decides to close on Friday and lay off employees, there may be an extra month’s salary, but no one can guarantee that. The company’s desire is for everyone to stay until the end, but the risks are unpredictable. Everyone should make their own decisions,” the text states.
One of Lai’s top advisors, Mark Simon, has confirmed that ‘Apple Daily’ is running out of funds to continue publishing, so “it may have to shut down its print and digital operations” unless Hong Kong authorities eventually allow access to the money.
Simon also revealed that the private companies with which the media outlet is negotiating have tried to carry out a capital injection, but the operations have been cancelled. “It’s up to the government to decide whether ‘Apple Daily’ stays or goes. Once they get rid of us, who’s next?” he asked.
Last Friday, the paper achieved a circulation of 500,000 with an eight-page special on the arrests and raids, compared to 80,000 copies sold the day before.
Police have accused “the tabloid press” of “undermining national security”, citing as an example some 30 articles in ‘Apple Daily’, mostly commentary or opinion pieces, calling for sanctions against Hong Kong and China.
Hong Kong detained more than 10,000 people as part of anti-government protests in 2019. The unrest led to a criticized national security law passed in June 2020 by the Chinese parliament. Among those detained is Lai, who is serving a prison sentence in connection with his involvement in these protests and for other crimes.