Hong Kong’s finance minister has asked a local court to wind up Next Digital Limited in the “public interest,” after the embattled media group saw its subsidiaries and former senior executives charged under the Beijing-imposed national security law.

The government announced on Wednesday that Financial Secretary Paul Chan had presented a petition to the Court of First Instance, calling for the parent company of the now-defunct pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily to be wound up.

Next Digital building
Apple Daily’s former headquarters in Tseung Kwan O. Photo: Kelly Ho/HKFP.

Chan cited section 879 (1) of the Companies Ordinance in his request, which gave him the authority to ask the court to wind up a body corporate if he deems such a move was “expedient in the public interest.”

The finance chief appointed Clement Chan Kam-wing as an inspector in late August to investigate Next Digital, and decided to file a winding up petition after reading an interim report submitted on September 14.

The government said on Wednesday that the Securities and Futures Commission conducted two separate probes into the media firm and supplied the financial minister with “important information evidence” relevant to the petition.

“The SFC also believes that it is desirable in the public interest for Next Digital to be wound up based on the information and evidence it has obtained. The Financial Secretary thanked the SFC for its assistance,” a government statement read.

paul chan
Paul Chan. Photo: GovHK.

Next Digital saw four of its remaining directors quit earlier this month, citing a “climate of fear” under the sweeping national security law. The executives who resigned included Chairman Ip Yut-kin and directors Mark Clifford, L. Gordon Crovitz and Elic Lam, who called for the firm’s liquidation to pay its shareholders, creditors and ex-staff, after some of its assets were frozen in June.

Three subsidiaries of Next Digital linked to the once-vocal tabloid stand accused of taking part in a conspiracy to commit foreign collusion, alongside former senior executives of the company and ex-columnists for the newspaper that folded in late June.

They were denied bail pending trial over accusations of using the publication and its online platforms to request foreign powers to impose sanctions on Hong Kong and China.

They will appear in court for a mention on Thursday.

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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.