Economy

Pro-democracy Hong Kong newspaper Apple Daily closing down

Pro-democracy Hong Kong newspaper Apple Daily closing down”

Hong Kong police arrested on Wednesday a columnist of pro-democracy tabloid Apple Daily on suspicion of conspiring to collude with a foreign country or foreign forces, local media TVB said.

Tong Ying-kit, 24, was arrested under the new law the day after it came into effect when he allegedly drove his motorbike into a group of police officers during protests on July 1 previous year.

The city's justice secretary invoked the no jury clause for Tong's trial arguing that juror safety could be compromised in Hong Kong's febrile political landscape, a decision first revealed by AFP.

The board of Apple Daily's parent company, Next Digital, issued a statement citing the "current circumstances prevailing in Hong Kong" as the reason why the newspaper would print its last issue Thursday.

Tong Ying-kit is facing life in prison for two charges under Beijing's national security law.

The police operation against Apple Daily drew criticism from the UK, US and European Union, which said Hong Kong and Chinese authorities are targeting the freedoms promised to the city when the former British colony was returned to the control of Beijing in 1997.

Authorities have said dozens of Apple Daily pieces may have violated the security law, which Beijing imposed on the city a year ago, the first instance of authorities taking aim at media reports under the legislation.

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Chinese and Hong Kong officials have said the media must abide by the law, and that press freedom can not be used as a "shield" for illegal activities.

Under the new law, the burden is now placed on the defendant to prove they will not break the law if released on bail.

Rights groups, media organisations and Western governments have criticised last week's police raid on the newspaper.

Owned and operated by the brash apparel magnate Jimmy Lai, Apple Daily made little effort to hide its editorial stance supporting democracy and Hong Kong's continued autonomy, which was guaranteed for 50 years under the handover agreement signed by Britain and China.

At a regular press conference, Lam expressed her support for the enforcement authorities of Hong Kong in defending national security, saying the HKSAR government will act strictly in accordance with the law so as to avoid the national security law to exist in name only.

The newspaper has come under increasing pressure since owner and Beijing critic Lai, who is now in jail, was arrested under the national security law last August and has since had some of his assets frozen.



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