Hong Kong media group Next Digital, which owns the now-defunct pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily, has said the company is not halting operations and has apologised to staff for sending the “wrong message.”

According to an internal memo seen by HKFP on Friday, Next Digital’s human resources department made clarifications to an email sent on Wednesday, which said the firm would shut down on Thursday amid an assets freeze under the national security law.

Photo: Kenny Huang & Michael Ho/Studio Incendo.

In its latest email to employees, the parent company of the pro-democracy daily said it was only making “personnel adjustments,” rather than ceasing operations. The firm also said the arrangement for staff compensation would be handled in accordance with the law.

“Some firms or departments under this company are still operating… [the Human Resources Department] is deeply sorry about sending a wrong message,” a staff email sent on Thursday evening read.

The Hong Kong government has frozen HK$18 million worth of assets belonging to Apple Daily Limited, Apple Daily Printing Limited and AD Internet Limited. The three subsidiaries of Next Digital were charged with collusion with foreign forces on June 18, alongside Next Digital CEO Cheung Kim-hung and Apple Daily Editor-in-Chief Ryan Law. 

Apple Daily’s front page on June 18, 2021, the day after police raided its office and arrested five senior executives of the newspaper under the national security law. Photo: Kelly Ho/HKFP.

Cheung and Law were remanded into custody pending trial, while three other arrested senior directors were released on police bail.

Foreign collusion is criminalised in Hong Kong under a security law imposed by Beijing on June 30 last year. The controversial legislation also outlaws secession, subversion and terrorist acts, with a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.

Apple Daily’s founder and media tycoon Jimmy Lai, who has been an outspoken critic of the Chinese government, is also facing trial over alleged foreign collusion.

The media company had appealed to the Security Bureau to unfreeze its assets to pay staff, but to no avail. The publication’s 26-year run in Hong Kong came to an abrupt end last Wednesday, when it printed one million copies of its final edition.

Kelly Ho

Kelly Ho has an interest in local politics, education and sports. She formerly worked at South China Morning Post Young Post, where she specialised in reporting on issues related to Hong Kong youth. She has a bachelor's degree in Journalism from the University of Hong Kong, with a second major in Politics and Public Administration.