Apple Daily, the embattled anti-Beijing newspaper, has asked authorities to unfreeze some of its assets so it can pay salaries and avoid labour violations, and that its board will meet on Friday to decide if the newspaper will cease operations.

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam speaks during her weekly press conference at the government headquarters in Hong Kong on June 22, 2021.
Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam speaks during her weekly press conference at the government headquarters in Hong Kong on June 22, 2021. (AFP)

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam hit back against criticism of authorities' actions against anti-Beijing tabloid Apple Daily as attempts to "beautify" acts that endangered national security.

Hundreds of police raided the newspaper last week as part of a national security probe in which senior Apple Daily executives were arrested over allegations of "collusion with a foreign country" and $2.3 million in assets frozen.

Police have said dozens of Apple Daily articles may have violated the security law, the first instance of authorities targeting media articles under the legislation.

READ MORE: Hong Kong's Apple Daily to 'shut down' after asset freeze

Concern over freedom of press

Rights groups, media organisations, and Western governments have criticised the actions and expressed concern over freedom of the press and other rights in the Chinese-ruled city.

In Washington, State Department spokesman Ned Price said the United States was deeply concerned by "selective" and "politically motivated" use of the security law.

Speaking at her regular weekly news conference, Lam singled out the US comments, telling reporters the accusations were wrong and applied double standards.
She said the actions taken by authorities did not target press freedom.

"Don't try to underplay the significance of breaching the national security law," Lam said. "Don't try to beautify these acts of endangering national security."

"And don't try to accuse the Hong Kong authorities for using the national security law as a tool to suppress the media or to stifle the freedom of expression," she added.

READ MORE: Media execs charged with national security law denied bail in Hong Kong

Charges on Apple Daily staff

On Monday, Mark Simon, an adviser to the jailed Apple Daily owner and Beijing critic Jim my Lai, told Reuters the media outlet would be forced to shut down in "a matter of days".

Editor-in-Chief Ryan Law and Chief Executive Officer Cheung Kim-hung were charged with conspiracy to commit collusion with a foreign country and denied bail on Saturday. Three other senior executives were released pending further investigation.

Apple Daily has come under increasing pressure since Lai was arrested last year under the legislation. Lai, whose assets have also been frozen under the security law, is already serving a prison sentence for taking part in unauthorised assemblies.

According to an internal staff memo seen by Reuters, the tabloid looks set to close for good by Saturday.

READ MORE: Hong Kong to censor all movies for anti-China content

Source: Reuters