Hong Kong court orders liquidation of parent company Apple Daily

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Hong Kong (AFP) – A Hong Kong court on Wednesday ordered the liquidation of parent company Apple Daily, dealing another blow to the already closed pro-democracy newspaper.

Apple Daily closed earlier this year after freezing its assets using a national security law that China imposed on Hong Kong to quash dissent.

Its owner, media mogul Jimmy Lai, and several executives were arrested and charged with colluding over candid articles and columns published by the newspaper.

In September, the Hong Kong government made the rare move to call for the dissolution of the newspaper’s parent company, Next Digital Limited, saying it would be “expedient in the public interest.”

High Court Judge Jack Wong granted the government’s request on Wednesday after a brief hearing that was not challenged by Next Digital.

It is still unclear how the court order will affect the edition of Apple Daily in Taiwan, which continues to operate as a financially independent subsidiary.

Next Digital’s Taiwan offices did not respond to requests for comment.

Lai, 74, and several Apple Daily executives face life imprisonment if convicted of colluding with foreign forces for speaking out in favor of sanctions against China.

Lai is already serving prison terms related to his participation in democracy protests in recent years.

On Monday, he was sentenced to an additional 13 months in prison for attending a vigil last year in commemoration of the victims of the Tiananmen crackdown in 1989, an event banned by Hong Kong authorities for reasons public health and safety.

Questions remain about the future of the Taiwanese edition of Apple Daily, after Bloomberg said the deal was strapped for cash and would close before the end of the year.

Apple Daily Taiwan called the report “speculation” and said it had no further comment.

Taiwanese media reported that the court-appointed interim liquidator for Next Digital had approached Apple Daily’s Taiwanese unit to inquire about its assets.

Authorities have moved to restrict press freedom in Hong Kong as Beijing reshapes the city in its own image, following huge and often violent protests for democracy two years ago.

Earlier this month, the World Association of News Editors presented its annual Press Freedom Award to the staff of Apple Daily and its founder Lai.

The association hailed the newspaper as a “symbol of pro-democracy and public dissent” and said Lai was a vocal critic of Beijing’s control over Hong Kong.

The award recognizes and reflects on “the imprisonment of a publisher, the arrest of an editor and his senior colleagues, the closing of a newsroom and the closing of a media headline,” said organizers.


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