HK Security Bureau to handle matter of frozen assets of Apple Daily in line with law: spokesperson
Published: Jun 21, 2021 03:23 PM
Police escort deputy chief editor Chan Puiman (center) from the Apple Daily newspaper offices in Hong Kong on Thursday. Photo: VCG

Police escort deputy chief editor Chan Puiman (center) from the Apple Daily newspaper offices in Hong Kong on Thursday. Photo: VCG

A spokesperson from Hong Kong's Security Bureau told the Global Times on Monday that endangering national security is a very severe crime, and freezing assets of Apple Daily is in line with relevant law that targets all criminal activities after media reported on Monday that the pro-secession tabloid may not be able to pay staff due to a shortage of funds and could face an imminent risk of closure after authorities froze the company's assets under a national security law.

"We will handle the case in line with the law, which targets criminal activities, and requires the freezing of assets related to the criminal activities in line with the law," the spokesperson said, noting that as the case is now in the legal process, the authority won't comment on its details. 

In terms of applying to unfreeze the assets, the Secretary for Security will handle the matter in accordance with the law, the spokesperson added. 

The department for safeguarding national security under the Hong Kong Police Force (HKPF) arrested the editor-in-chief and four directors on suspicion of conspiracy to collude with foreign forces, and froze HK$18 million ($2.3 million) in assets during a Thursday morning operation. It is the second time that Apple Daily, founded and owned by Jimmy Lai Chee-ying, who faces multiple charges including conspiracy to collude with foreign countries or forces to endanger national security, has been searched since the national security law for Hong Kong came into force on June 30, 2020.

Several foreign media outlets such as Reuters, AFP and Bloomberg reported on Monday morning that the paper may not be able to pay staff after the freezing of its assets despite having tens of million dollars in the bank, as the Security Bureau locked its accounts. The board of Next Digital, the parent company of Apple Daily, was about to meet on Monday to decide whether to shut the newspaper down, according to media reports. 

Some lawyers and experts in Hong Kong who spoke with the Global Times see the possible suspension of the paper's operations and a complete shutdown as a long overdue move, which is also legitimate and necessary given the paper's misdeeds on suspicion of violating the national security law amid rising calls for a clampdown on this "poisonous Apple."