Hong Kong newspaper Apple Daily yesterday said that the freezing of its assets in a national security probe had left it with cash for “only a few weeks” of normal operations and that it might struggle to pay staff wages.
The newspaper, whose chief editor and chief executive have been detained under a Beijing-imposed National Security Law and whose offices were raided by 500 police officers on Thursday, said that the announcement was made in a management meeting on Friday.
Three companies related to Apple Daily are also being prosecuted for collusion with a foreign country and authorities have frozen HK$18 million (US$2.3 million) of their assets.
Apple Daily is planning to ask the Hong Kong Security Bureau to unfreeze the assets on Monday and, if that attempt fails, it would look to challenge the decision in court, the newspaper reported.
“The freezing of the assets of the three companies not only affects payrolls, but also normal newspaper operations,” it said in an article. “It is understood that the company only has enough cash to continue normal operations for several weeks.”
Apple Daily is also reviewing its stocks of ink and paper, it said.
Police have said that dozens of Apple Daily articles are suspected of contravening the National Security Law — the first case in which authorities have cited media articles as potentially breaching the contentious legislation.
Apple Daily editor-in-chief Ryan Law (羅偉光) and Cheung Kim-hung (張劍虹), chief executive officer of the newspaper’s parent firm, Next Digital, were charged with collusion with a foreign country and denied bail on Saturday. Three other senior executives were on Thursday detained and released on bail on Friday.
The arrests and scale of the Apple Daily raid have been criticized by Western nations, global rights groups, press associations and the chief UN spokesperson for human rights.
Hong Kong and Chinese officials have said that press freedom cannot be used as a “shield” for those who commit crimes and slammed the criticism as “meddling.”
Apple Daily and Next Digital have come under increasing pressure since the firm’s owner, Jimmy Lai (黎智英), a staunch critic of Beijing, was arrested last year under the legislation.
Lai, whose assets have also been frozen under the security law, is in jail for taking part in unauthorized assemblies.
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