Hong Kong newspaper Apple Daily raided by authorities may be forced to close
The board had asked authorities to unfreeze some assets so it could pay salaries and avoid labour violations, the newspaper reported on Monday.
Police last week arrested five top editors and executives of Apple Daily under the city’s tough national security law on suspicion of foreign collusion, searched its offices and froze $2.3 million worth of assets of three companies linked to the newspaper.
The arrests and freezing of assets came as Hong Kong authorities cracked down on dissenting voices and Beijing tightened control over the territory in what critics said was an erosion of freedoms it promised the city for 50 years when the former British colony was handed over to China in 1997.
Apple Daily has been outspoken in defending Hong Kong’s freedoms and in recent years has often criticised the Chinese and Hong Kong governments for limiting the city’s democratic freedoms and constricting the rights of free speech and assembly not found on mainland China.
An internal department memo sent to some employees at Apple Daily also stated those who wished to resign immediately could do so.
Apple Daily said in an article on Sunday it might challenge the decision to freeze its assets in court if the city’s Security Bureau denied its request.
The Security Bureau said it would not comment on the details of the case because legal proceedings were ongoing. It said endangering national security was a “very serious crime.”
“We handle such crimes according to the law, targeting at illegal acts, and invoke the power to freeze offence-related properties based on need and the law,” the bureau said in an English-language statement.
“Secretary for Security will handle in accordance with the law any application related to the frozen property.”
Last week, police identified more than 30 articles published by Apple Daily they said played a “crucial” role in a conspiracy with foreign countries to impose sanctions against China and Hong Kong for undermining Hong Kong’s autonomy.
Two of the five people arrested last week have also been charged with collusion with foreign countries.
The police operation against Apple Daily has drawn criticism from the US and Britain, which say Hong Kong and Chinese authorities are targeting the city’s promised freedoms.
Chinese and Hong Kong officials have insisted that the media must abide by the law, and that press freedom cannot be used as a “shield” for illegal activities.