Hong Kong (AFP)

The pro-democracy Apple Daily in Hong Kong told readers on Monday that its board of directors will vote on a possible closure of the newspaper on June 25, after its assets were frozen under a security law. national.

"The board ... decided to meet on Friday to determine whether to end Apple Daily," the daily said in a notification sent to its readers.

For years, Apple Daily has displayed unwavering support for the pro-democracy movement and has not failed to sharply criticize the Chinese leadership.

Its owner, press mogul Jimmy Lai is currently in custody, sentenced to multiple prison terms for his involvement in pro-democracy protests in 2019.

He is also charged under the National Security Act, with offenses punishable by life imprisonment.

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Mark Simon, an adviser to Mr. Lai living abroad, said Monday morning that the newspaper's asset freeze was preventing it from continuing to operate.

This measure was ordered last week, a few hours after a search of the newspaper's editorial staff and the arrest of five of its leaders.

"Our problem is not that we do not have funds, we have 50 million dollars (42 million euros) in the bank," he told CNN.

"Our problem is that the Secretary in charge of Security and the police do not let us pay our journalists (...) our staff (...) and our suppliers. They have blocked our accounts."

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On June 17, more than 500 police officers raided the premises of the daily.

They arrested five of its leaders over a series of articles which police said called for international sanctions.

Two officials of the daily, headline editor Ryan Law and managing director Cheung Kim-hung were indicted on Friday for "collusion with a foreign country or with external elements to endanger national security."

A Hong Kong court on Saturday refused their release on bail.

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It is the first time that political opinions published by a Hong Kong news outlet have led to prosecution under the controversial law imposed by China in 2020 in an attempt to quell dissent in the former British colony. .

© 2021 AFP