Thousands Watch Last Online TV News From Hong Kong's Apple Daily
The pro-democracy newspaper will likely fold this week after its assets were frozen during a raid by the national security police.
Thousands of people tuned in to watch the last online TV news broadcast by Hong Kong's Apple Daily newspaper on Monday, as its owners warned the paper would likely shut down entirely by next weekend.
"Welcome to Apple Daily news," the presenter said. "Sadly, I'm here to tell you that this broadcast will be our last news program."
Users left messages of protest and support on the paper's YouTube channel.
"Without the Apple Daily, we have zero confidence that the news we are getting is true," wrote user Elsie Wong, while tongtong417 wrote: "[I will] always support Apple."
"[You were] freedom fighters for press freedom ... the people of Hong Kong salute you," Yu Lok Tin added.
Many other users thanked the paper, which is owned by jailed pro-democracy media mogul Jimmy Lai's Next Digital, the headquarters of which was raided by national security police last week, and its assets frozen.
The board of directors will make a final decision on the matter on Friday pending the results of a bid to have the group’s assets unfrozen, the paper reported on Monday.
Next Digital’s board sent a letter to Hong Kong’s secretary for security, John Lee, requesting that some of the company’s assets be unfrozen so that employees can be paid, the report said.
"If the decision is taken on Friday to cease operations, the online news section of Apple Daily is expected to stop updating on Saturday morning at the earliest, while the final print edition will also be published on Saturday," it said.
Around 500 national security and uniformed police raided Next Digital's headquarters in Tseung Kwan O on Thursday, arresting five company executives on suspicion of "colluding with foreign powers to endanger national security" and freezing H.K.$18 million of the group's assets.
"The primary concern is the safety and well being of the staff, and everybody is doing all they can to make sure that they are taken care of," Mark Simon, an adviser to Jimmy Lai, told RFA.
"We are taking every action we can to stay alive," he said, but declined to go into details.
Articles predate relevant law
Simon said police had been cagey so far about exactly how articles published by the paper as early as 2019 could have violated the draconian national security law that was imposed on Hong Kong by the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) from July 1, 2020.
"If the accusation is collusion based on journalism, then the police refusing to show the articles means the accusations are lies," Simon told RFA.
"If the accusation is based on public, open documents, [then] show the people of Hong Kong and the world what documents and what articles you are talking about ... what news and opinion pieces you are talking about."
Next Digital CEO Cheung Kim-hung and Apple Daily editor-in-chief Ryan Law, were charged with "collusion with foreign powers" under the law, and were denied bail on Saturday.
Meanwhile, the organizers of an annual July 1 protest march, the Civil Human Rights Front, said they were canceling this year's march in the face of ongoing coronavirus restrictions and "the political atmosphere" amid an ongoing crackdown on public opposition and dissent under the national security law.
Temporary convenor Chung Chung-fai said the organization had basically collapsed after former convenor Figo Chan was jailed in May for taking part in an "illegal assembly" on Oct. 1, 2019.
Police have warned that they could take action against the group after it failed to register as an entity under the Societies Ordinance following a warning letter from the authorities in April.
Reported by Gigi Lee, Cheng Yu Yiu and Kay Lee for RFA's Cantonese and Mandarin Services. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.