Chinese Crackdown Shuts Hong Kong Media House

Critical of the Chinese government for decades, Hong Kong-based media house Next Digital has started taking steps to shut down as Beijing’s crackdown had left it with no way to operate, a media report said on Sunday.

The company’s board of directors called for the liquidation of the company and said that they had resigned, New York Times reported on Sunday quoting a statement from the board of directors.

“We have concluded that the best interests of shareholders, creditors, employees and other stakeholders will be served by an orderly liquidation,” the statement added.

Jimmy Lai, the founder of Next Digital is in jail. He has been charged with crimes that include violating the security law.

In June, Hong Kong authorities had frozen the outlet’s bank account and it resulted in the closure of its flagship newspaper Apple Daily.

Apple Daily faced advertising boycotts despite being widely read as the supporter of the Chinese government made it happen.

In June, Next Digital’s stock was suspended from trading.

Its stock soared at times over the past year, as supporters of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy cause bought shares to show support for the company, said New York Times.

The supporters of Next Digital said that the Chinese government’s action against the outlet harm not only media freedom in the city, but also property rights and Hong Kong’s reputation as a good place to do business.

Next Digital had stressed that it had been forced to close before any of the cases against its senior figures had gone to trial.

Mark Clifford, an independent non-executive director of Next Digital, said: “When you abuse state power and freeze bank accounts and throw people in jail — the editor in chief, the chief executive, the founder — it smacks of a banana republic. This is not what made Hong Kong a center of international investment or the image that it prides itself in, with rule of law and protection of property rights.”

Later this year, Lai is expected to be tried on a fraud charge. It relates to a sublease of the company’s headquarters, as well as charges brought under the national security law, reported New York Times.

The company that became Next Digital was founded in 1990 by Lai. He started with a magazine.

Later it grew to include Apple Daily. The daily had also introduced an edition in Taiwan.

In recent months, various issues surrounded Next Digital.

Paul Chan, Hong Kong’s financial secretary, appointed an inspector to investigate the company’s financial affairs.

In August, Hong Kong’s auditing watchdog, the Financial Reporting Council also opened an investigation into the company, according to New York Times.

The company has been unable to pay outstanding wages to about 700 editorial employees as its bank accounts are frozen. (ANI)

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