HK's Apple Daily owner Next Digital closes

·2-min read

Under pressure Hong Kong media group Next Digital, owned by jailed tycoon Jimmy Lai, is to cease operations after the company's assets were frozen as part of a national security investigation.

The company is the publisher of Apple Daily, a popular pro-democracy newspaper that closed last week after its newsroom was raided by 500 police officers investigating whether some articles breached the controversial security law.

Next Digital did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Beijing imposed the legislation in Hong Kong on June 30, 2020. It punishes acts deemed by China to be subversive, secessionist, terrorism or collusion with foreign forces with up to life in prison.

Critics say it has been used to crush dissent, while supporters insist it helped restore order in Hong Kong after months of pro-democracy protests.

An internal Next Digital memo seen by Reuters confirmed the July 1 closure, saying assets linked to the company remain frozen under the ongoing national security investigation.

Dated June 30, the memo is addressed to all Hong Kong staff from the board.

"The group will cease operations," it said. "Although the road ahead is difficult, continue to move forward!".

The Hong Kong Security Bureau, which directed the asset freeze, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Lai, a staunch Beijing critic, was arrested last year on suspicion of colluding with foreign forces.

He is currently serving a prison sentence for taking part in what were deemed illegal assemblies during Hong Kong's mass 2019 pro-democracy protests.

Next Digital, which had a market capitalisation of HK$765 million ($A131 million), said in a statement to the Hong Kong Stock Exchange on Tuesday it had accepted a proposal to divest Amazing Sino, which operates the online edition of Taiwan's Apple Daily.

It had earlier ceased printing its Taiwan edition on the democratic island, which China views as a breakaway province, blaming declining advertising revenue and difficult business conditions in Hong Kong linked to politics.

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