TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Next Digital, a Hong Kong media group that has been an outspoken critic of the Chinese government for decades, announced on Sunday (Sept. 5) that it would take steps toward liquidation.
In a statement, the company’s board of directors said recent crackdowns on the press in Hong Kong had left it with no way to operate and that they had resigned, according to a Reuters report.
Ip Yut Kin (葉一堅 ) tendered his resignation as non-executive director and chairman, while Louis Gordon Crovitz, Mark Lambert Clifford, and Elic Lam (林中仁 ) have tendered their resignations as independent non-executive directors, Next Digital said.
The company was the publisher of Apple Daily, a popular pro-democracy newspaper started in 1990 that eventually introduced a widely read edition in Taiwan. The Apple Daily ceased printing in June after its headquarters was raided by police alleging the newspaper had breached the national security law introduced in Hong Kong by Beijing last year. The company's CEO, Jimmy Lai (黎智英) was under arrest at the time of the raid on charges related to the security law breach investigation, and its chief financial officer resigned in July.
Next Digital’s assets were frozen as part of the investigation, and its shares have been suspended from trading since June. The company said it could have stayed solvent had its bank accounts not been frozen.
Considering the situation, Next Digital said on Sunday that liquidation would be in the best interests of shareholders, creditors, employees, and other stakeholders.
Although it had faced advertising boycotts, the Apple Daily still boasted a wide readership and sold a million copies of its final edition. Next Digital’s stock had soared at times over the past year, buoyed by pro-democracy activists who bought shares to support the company.
The company said the authorities never specified which content published by the newspaper had allegedly violated the national security law. The resulting uncertainty created a climate of fear, triggering waves of resignations at the company.
"As Apple Daily often observed, Hong Kong people have a collective memory of what life was like elsewhere when freedom of speech was denied: No other rights are safe," Next Media said.