Hong Kong's Apple Daily to close operations on Thursday following national security arrests

  • The move follows last week’s arrests of the paper’s editor-in-chief, publisher, and three other executives on the suspicion of colluding with foreign forces
  • The police force said the operation is still ongoing and further arrests are possible

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Apple Daily could cease publication as soon as Saturday if the Security Bureau rejects its request to unfreeze its assets. Photo: SCMP/Sam Tsang

Hong Kong’s embattled Apple Daily is closing its operations three days earlier than expected and will publish its last print edition on Thursday, the SCMP has learned.

An official press release issued in the afternoon also stated that the newspaper’s digital version would also no longer be accessible after 11:59 pm on Saturday.

The decision was made by the board of directors of Next Digital, the 26-year-old tabloid’s parent company, just hours after Hong Kong’s national security police detained Apple Daily’s lead editorial writer on suspicion of conspiracy to collude with foreign forces.

Yeung Ching-kee, 55, who was also a senior columnist and wrote under the pseudonym “Li Ping”, was picked up from his Tseung Kwan O home just after daybreak.

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Records show he had penned about 800 columns and commentaries since 2016, with 331 of those coming since 2019. His most recent was published on Tuesday.

Yeung is being held at the district police station for questioning and has not been charged. According to the force, the operation was ongoing and further arrests were possible.

His arrest comes less than a week after the paper’s editor-in-chief, publisher and three other executives were arrested last Thursday under the national security law and accused of running more than 30 reports calling for foreign sanctions against the city and mainland China since 2019.

Top editor Ryan Law Wai-kwong and publisher Cheung Kim-hung were charged the next day with conspiring to collude with foreign forces and remanded in custody, while the other three were released on bail without charge.

Many people flocked to newsstands to buy issues of Apple Daily after the arrests of its senior executives. Photo: SCMP/Felix Wong
The force earlier cited the publication of the articles – understood to be mostly commentaries and opinion pieces, including several written by the tabloid’s jailed founder Jimmy Lai Chee-ying – as evidence of conspiracy to collude with foreign forces and external elements.

The board of directors at parent company Next Digital on Monday said Apple Daily’s final edition could be on Saturday if management failed to convince the bureau to release some of the HK$18 million (US$2.32 million) in assets frozen during the police operation.

Just hours before Yeung’s arrest came to light, Next Magazine, a sister publication of Apple Daily, became the latest arm of the Next Digital empire to shut down.

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Its publisher, Louise Wong Lai-Sheung, made the announcement on the site’s Facebook page on Wednesday, saying its days had come to an end despite having made a smooth transition from a print to online model.

Wong said that since steps were taken to go digital in 2019, it had amassed more than 100,000 subscribers – 40,000 more than its original target – yet failed to generate a profit.

“In June, the editorial department came to realise we had reached the last step before the finishing line. Yes, it’s the finishing line,” she said.

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Without alluding to the authorities’ recent move against Apple Daily, Wong delivered a veiled yet forceful message to staff.

“Some colleagues are not ready to let go, holding onto their last shred of hope. I had to tell them bluntly: ‘Stop fantasizing!’” she wrote.

“There is no regret as long as we have worked hard for Next Magazine and enjoyed the freedom of the press.”

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