HONG KONG—Hong Kong pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily will be forced to shut “in a matter of days” after authorities froze the company’s assets under Beijing’s national security law, an adviser to jailed owner Jimmy Lai told Reuters on Monday.
The closure of Apple Daily would undermine the former British colony’s reputation as an open and free society and send a warning to other companies that could be accused of colluding with a foreign country, media advocacy groups said.
Next Digital, publisher of the top-selling 26-year-old newspaper, would hold a board meeting on Monday to discuss how to move forward after its lines of credit were frozen, the adviser, Mark Simon, said.
“Vendors tried to put money into our accounts and were rejected,” he said by phone from the United States.
“We thought we’d be able to make it to the end of the month. It’s just getting harder and harder. It’s essentially a matter of days.”
Apple Daily said on Sunday the freezing of its assets had left the liberal newspaper with cash for “a few weeks” for normal operations.
Chief Editor Ryan Law, 47, and Chief Executive Cheung Kim-hung, 59, were denied bail on Saturday after being charged with “collusion with a foreign country” under the Chinese Communist Party’s national security law.
Three other executives were also arrested on Thursday when 500 police officers raided the newspaper’s offices, drawing condemnation from Western nations, global rights groups and the U.N. spokesperson for human rights.
Those three are still under investigation but were released from police detention.
Pro-Beijing Hong Kong and Chinese officials claimed that press freedom cannot be used as a “shield” for those who commit “crimes,” and slammed the criticism as “meddling” in China’s internal affairs.