A supporter reads a copy of the Apple Daily newspaper outside a court in Hong Kong on June 19 after the two Apple employees were charged with 'collusion' over their newspaper's coverage. Photo: AFP / Peter Parks

Hong Kong’s pro-democracy Apple Daily newspaper confirmed Wednesday that the following day’s newspaper will be its final edition, days after police froze its assets using a new national security law. 

“Apple Daily decided that the paper will cease operations from midnight and tomorrow will be the last publication day,” the paper wrote on its website. “Apple Daily’s website will stop updates from midnight.”

Meanwhile, the first trial under Hong Kong’s new national security law began on Wednesday without a jury, a watershed moment for the financial hub’s fast-changing legal landscape.

The opening of the closely-watched court case came as police also arrested a senior columnist from the pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily under the same law.

China’s authoritarian leaders have used the law to stamp out dissent in Hong Kong after the city was convulsed by huge and often violent democracy protests in 2019.

Prosecutors started presenting their case against Tong Ying-kit, 24, who was arrested the day after the security law came into effect.

He allegedly drove his motorcycle into a group of police officers during protests on July 1 last year.

More than 60 people have now been charged under the law, including some of the city’s best-known democracy activists, but their offences are related to political views or speech that authorities have declared illegal.

Columnist arrested

The most recent arrest on Wednesday was of the lead editorial writer for Apple Daily.

The outspoken tabloid has long been a thorn in Beijing’s side, with unapologetic support for the city’s pro-democracy movement and caustic criticism of China’s authoritarian leaders.

The logo for media boss and pro-democracy campaigner Jimmy Lai’s newspaper, Apple Daily, pictured at Lai’s office in Hong Kong. Photo: AFP / Laurent Fievet

Yeung Ching-kee – who writes under the pen name Li Ping – was detained on suspicion of colluding with foreign forces to endanger national security.

Two of the paper’s executives were charged last weekend with the same crime in an operation police said was sparked by articles that allegedly supported international sanctions against China. 

Hong Kong and Chinese authorities have hailed the security law for successfully restoring stability after the 2019 demonstrations.

But it has radically transformed the political and legal landscape of a city authoritarian China promised would be able to keep key liberties and autonomy after its 1997 return.

A host of political views have been criminalized by the law. 

China has jurisdiction over some cases and allowed its mainland security agents to operate openly in Hong Kong for the first time.

As well as the no-jury provision, the law has removed the presumption of bail for non-violent crimes.

Those charged have to instead prove to judges they will no longer pose any sort of national security threat. The vast majority of those charged are held in custody until trial.

Apple Daily has long been a thorn in Beijing’s side, with unapologetic support for the city’s pro-democracy movement and caustic criticism of China’s authoritarian leaders.

Authorities have made no secret of their desire to see the newspaper silenced and have used a sweeping new national security law to bring about its demise. 

Its owner Jimmy Lai is in jail and was among the first to be charged under the law after its imposition last year.

Over the last week authorities, when the authorities froze its assets, that left the paper unable to pay staff or vendors. 

It is the first time the political views and opinion published by a media outlet in Hong Kong – a regional international press hub – have triggered the new security law.