Staff work at the printing facility of Apple Daily in Hong Kong. AFP/Peter Parks
HONG KONG - Hong Kong pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily announced on Wednesday it was printing its final edition after authorities froze its assets using a sweeping new national security law, silencing the city's most China critical media outlet.
The decision is the latest blow to Hong Kong's freedoms and will deepen unease over whether the international finance centre can remain a media hub as China seeks to stamp out dissent.
Apple Daily has long been a thorn in Beijing's side, with unapologetic support for Hong Kong's pro-democracy movement and caustic criticism of China's authoritarian leaders.
Those same leaders have made no secret of their desire to see the newspaper shuttered and have used the new security law to bring about its rapid demise.
Owner Jimmy Lai, currently in jail for attending democracy protests, was among the first to be charged under the law after its imposition last year.
But the final chapter of the 26-year-old paper was written over the last week when authorities deployed the security law to raid the paper's newsroom, arrest six staff members and freeze its assets.
Hong Kong's eroding press freedom
That last move crippled the paper's ability to conduct business and pay staff.
On Wednesday, Apple Daily announced its closure "out of consideration for the safety of its staff".
"Apple Daily decided that the paper will cease operations from midnight, and tomorrow (24th) will be the last publication day," the paper wrote on its website.
"Apple Daily's website will stop updates from midnight."
China imposed its security law on Hong Kong last year to stamp out dissent after the city was convulsed by huge and often violent democracy protests.
Authorities said their prosecution of Apple Daily was sparked by articles and columns that allegedly supported international sanctions against China, a view now deemed illegal.