The Hong Kong-based pro-democracy news outlet Apple Daily has been forced to shut down after a police raid last week that saw five of its executives arrested. The paper had been under increased scrutiny since last year after the arrest of its owner and Beijing critic Jimmy Lai.
Apple Daily will distribute its last print edition on Thursday. The 26-year-old tabloid will also stop publishing online from midnight June 23, and its website will no longer be accessible from Saturday.
“Thank you to all our readers, subscribers and clients and Hong Kong for 26 years of immense love and support. Here we say goodbye, take care of yourselves,” Apple Daily said in a statement.
The outlet’s demise further raises concerns about freedom of the press, freedom of expression and other rights in the former British colony, which was handed back to Beijing in 1997 and its freedoms have increasingly suffered in China’s grip.
Last year, the police arrested its owner, Jimmy Lai, on suspicion of “colluding” with foreign governments. Last week, police officers raided the paper’s offices and arrested five executives on the same suspicion.
The police cited over 30 articles published by the paper as evidence of collusion with foreign forces. The pro-democracy paper had called on foreign governments to impose sanctions on Hong Kong and Beijing officials for implementing the new national security law, which is responsible for the end of most of the freedoms Hong Kongers once enjoyed.
Aside from the arrests, the paper was further punished through the freezing of its assets. Its owner Next Digital said that the decision to close down the paper was taken “due to the current circumstances prevailing in Hong Kong.”