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Hong Kong mogul Jimmy Lai’s Next Digital to cease operating July 1 – memo

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Staff turn on flashlights on their phones in the offices of Apple Daily and its publisher Next Digital, after announcing that they will be printing their latest edition, in Hong Kong, China on June 23, 2021. REUTERS / Lam Yik

HONG KONG, June 30 (Reuters) – Hong Kong media group Next Digital (0282.HK), owned by jailed tycoon Jimmy Lai, will cease operations from July 1 after the firm’s assets were frozen in connection with ‘a national security investigation, according to an internal memo seen by Reuters.

Next Digital did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The company is the publisher of Apple Daily, a popular pro-democracy newspaper that closed last week after its newsroom was raided by 500 police investigating whether certain articles violated the law on Security. Read more

Beijing imposed the legislation in Hong Kong on June 30, 2020. It punishes acts considered by China to be subversive, secessionist, terrorist or collusion with foreign forces up to life imprisonment.

Critics say it was used to crush dissent, while supporters said it restored order to Hong Kong after months of pro-democracy protests.

The Next Digital memo, shared separately by two employees, said company-related assets remained frozen as part of the national security investigation.

Dated June 30, the memo was addressed to all Hong Kong staff on the board.

“The group will cease operations,” he said. “Although the road ahead is difficult, keep moving forward!”

The Hong Kong Security Bureau, which ordered the assets freeze, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Lai, a staunch critic of Beijing, was arrested last year on suspicion of collusion with foreign forces. He is currently serving a prison sentence for participating in illegal gatherings during mass pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong in 2019.

Next Digital, which had a market capitalization of HK $ 765 million ($ 98.52 million), said in a statement to the Hong Kong Stock Exchange on Tuesday that it had accepted a proposal to sell Amazing Sino, which operates the online edition of Apple Daily from Taiwan.

It had previously stopped printing its Taiwanese edition on the Democratic Island, which China considers a breakaway province, blaming declining advertising revenues and politically-related difficult business conditions in Hong Kong.

Reporting by Sharon Abratique; Writing by Marius Zaharia; Editing by Louise Heavens and Neil Fullick

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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