A charity linked to the now-defunct pro-democracy Apple Daily newspaper has disappeared from Hong Kong’s list of registered charities, as the government announced moves to exclude organisations engaging in activities “contrary to the interests of national security.”
Apple Daily Charitable Foundation, founded in 1995, no longer appears on the Inland Revenue Department’s list of tax-exempt charities, which was last updated at the end of last month.
According to the Companies Registry, the foundation still has a “live” active status, but is being wound up voluntarily by its members.
Apple Daily ceased operations in June following multiple arrests of leading staffers under the Beijing-imposed national security law, including editor-in-chief Ryan Law. Next Digital CEO Cheung Kim-hung, Apple Daily Limited, Apple Daily Printing Limited and AD Internet Limited were among people or entities charged with colluding with foreign forces.
All four remaining directors of parent company Next Digital resigned and called on September 6 for the company’s liquidation, citing a “climate of fear” created by the security law.
Beijing inserted the sweeping legislation into Hong Kong’s Basic Law in June last year. It criminalises subversion, secession, collusion with foreign forces and terrorist acts, which were broadly defined to include disruption to transport and other infrastructure.
Charities to safeguard national security
Organisations “supporting, promoting, or engaging in activities disadvantageous to national security” will be delisted as charities in Hong Kong, the Financial Services and the Treasury Bureau announced on Monday.
The announcement came after lawmakers last Wednesday grilled Secretary for Financial Services and the Treasury Christopher Hui over the 612 Humanitarian Relief Fund. They urged the government to plug “loopholes” to better regulate crowdfunding after national security police requested information from the fund.
The 612 fund, which provided financial support and loans to arrested protesters but was not a registered charity, suspended operations on September 6.
Hui wrote in a blog post that the Inland Revenue Department had amended the tax guide for charities and the changes took effect on Monday.
“Charitable activities in society to promote public benefits of course deserve to be encouraged,” wrote Hui. “But we must also prevent people with an ulterior motive from using the name of charity to endanger national security.”
According to the updated tax guide, “a charity’s resources must be directed towards charitable works and should not engage in or support any acts or activities which are unlawful or contrary to the interests of national security.”
“Charity must act lawfully and has duty to safeguard national security,” the tax guide read, stating that any of them engaging in acts endangering national security “will not be regarded as a genuine charity.”
Chief Executive Carrie Lam said on Tuesday that the government has a responsibility to make clear to organisations and individuals what activities are off limits.
“Charitable organisations of course belongs to societal organisations, said Lam. “And the Inland Revenue Department is a regulatory department, that’s why this work is in accordance with Article 9 of the national security law.”