Hong Kong’s Apple Daily newspaper says it may shut down

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Ryan Law and Cheung Kim-hung, respectively the editor in chief of Apple Daily and CEO of Next Digital, appeared in court Saturday and were charged with conspiring to collude with a foreign country or external elements and were held in jail.

Three other executives were also arrested last week when 500 police officers raided the newspaper's offices, drawing condemnation from Western nations, global rights groups and the UN spokesperson for human rights.

The board of Apple Daily's parent company, Next Digital, issued a statement citing the "current circumstances prevailing in Hong Kong" as the reason why the newspaper would print its last issue Thursday.

Apple Daily has come under increasing pressure since Lai was arrested a year ago under the security legislation, which was introduced after months of at times violent pro-democracy protests.

The HKSAR chief executive reiterated the HKSAR government's determination to implement the national security law.

Experts say Apple Daily's days were numbered after China launched a broad crackdown on dissent following protests in 2019 over an extradition bill that brought millions out onto Hong Kong's streets and sparked months of violent demonstrations.

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Guest invitations have also been sent out to nations including Australia, India, South Korea and South Africa. Other leaders, including Japanese Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide, arrived on Thursday and Friday.

Tong, 24, was arrested on July 1, 2020, hours after the enactment of the national security law, which punishes what China deems as subversion, secessionism, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces with up to life in prison. The city's legislature no longer includes opposition members, schools have revamped teaching materials and fired teachers critical of China, and art exhibits and cinemas are censoring politically sensitive content.

Chinese and Hong Kong officials have insisted that the media must abide by the law, and that press freedom can not be used as a shield for illegal activities.

A man accused of driving a motorcycle into police officers while carrying a Hong Kong protest flag has become the first person to stand trial under the national security law implemented a year ago as China's central government tightened control over the city.

The police operation against Apple Daily drew criticism from the UK, US and European Union, which said Hong Kong and Chinese authorities are targeting the freedoms promised to the city when the former British colony was returned to the control of Beijing in 1997.

Carrie Lam said at a news conference on Tuesday that the actions do not target press freedom.

However, the wording of Beijing's security law makes clear that it trumps any local regulations in the event of a dispute, something successive court rulings have already upheld.

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