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Apple Daily delisting from Hong Kong stock exchange another blow for Hong Kong as business center

PRESS RELEASE: Apple Daily delisting from Hong Kong stock exchange another blow for Hong Kong as business center

Thursday 12th January – Pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily’s parent company Next Digital was delisted from the Stock Exchange of Hong Kong this morning. The move comes 19 months after Hong Kong Chief Executive John Lee put the company out of business by freezing its bank accounts. Lee, at the time the Secretary for Security, signed the company’s death warrant with a letter to the Next board of directors stating that he had “reason to believe” the company had violated the National Security Law. Almost two years later those claims have yet to be tested in court.

Founder and majority shareholder Jimmy Lai – whose 72 percent shareholding was also frozen unilaterally by Lee – remains in solitary confinement awaiting trial on National Security Law charges. Six other Apple Daily colleagues also remain in prison without bail.

Lee’s actions show rule of law is no more in Hong Kong. Lee acted without judicial process in freezing company bank accounts and Lai’s 72 percent shareholding. Today it is Jimmy Lai and his colleagues who suffer.

Apple Daily was destroyed for no other reason than the Chinese Communist Party’s hatred of Jimmy Lai and what he embodies – freedom.

The CFHK Foundation President, Mark Clifford, said:

“John Lee’s ongoing persecution of Jimmy Lai and Apple Daily continues the city’s slide toward kleptocracy. Lee’s high-handed and illegal shutdown of Apple Daily destroyed a $100 million company, cost 1000 jobs, and has left seven people in jail for nearly two years awaiting trial. Valuable company assets have been stolen.

“Next Digital’s delisting betrays John Lee’s attempt to bury Lai and the remarkable company that he created. Next Digital’s removal from the Stock Exchange of Hong Kong provides more evidence of Lee’s willingness to destroy Hong Kong’s entrepreneurial spirit and the freedom that allowed talented entrepreneurs like Jimmy Lai to build businesses, creating jobs and wealth by giving consumers what they wanted – the truth. Tomorrow it could be any entrepreneur, any employee, any business the government doesn’t like.

“The Chinese Communist Party promised that Britain’s common-law legal system would continue after it took over the former British colony. How does that promise fit with freezing and then seizing corporate assets on one man’s say-so? The CCP also promised Hong Kong citizens would continue to be presumed innocent until found guilty. The continuing imprisonment without bail of the Apple Daily Seven shows the world the true face of the Chinese Communist Party.”

Note: Mark Clifford was an independent non-executive director of Next Digital (2018-2021).

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