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Taiwan Apple Daily to end print edition next week

May 14, 2021 GMT

TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) — The media company of tycoon Jimmy Lai, a prominent Hong Kong pro-democracy advocate, said Friday its Taiwan Apple Daily newspaper will stop publishing a print edition next week, adding to economic fallout from conflict over Beijing’s tighter control of the southern Chinese city.

Next Media said Taiwan Apple Daily is losing money and the Hong Kong parent company can no longer support it because “pro-China forces” have blocked access to advertising for its flagship Apple Daily newspaper and other publications in Hong Kong.

Lai, 72, was sentenced last month to 14 months in prison on charges stemming from 2019 pro-democracy protests. Lai was among activists who were charged under a national security law imposed on the territory by China’s ruling Communist Party following the protests.

Also Friday, the Hong Kong government announced it was freezing Lai’s shares in Next Media and seizing bank accounts of three of his companies.

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“Taiwan Apple Daily didn’t lose on the news battlefield,” the newspaper said on its website. “The situation in Hong Kong deteriorated, causing us to be unable to sustain long-term losses.”

The company said it would focus resources on digital operations.

“We reluctantly give up the paper, but we dare not and cannot give up our media responsibilities, our mouthpiece for the people, the pursuit of justice and the defense of democracy and freedom,” the newspaper said.

The protests in Hong Kong erupted in 2019 over a proposed extradition law. The government of Chief Executive Carrie Lam withdraw that legislation but the protests expanded to include demands for greater democracy.

Critics say the national security law erodes the autonomy promised to Hong Kong when the former British colony was returned to China in 1997 and hurts its status as a trade and financial center.