HONG KONG — Next Digital, a Hong Kong media company that has published strong criticism of the Chinese government for decades, said on Sunday it would last steps until shut down after a official had a crackdown left the with new way to operate.
In a statement, the company says board of called directors for the liquidation of the company and said they had resigned.
“We have come to the conclusion that the best interests of shareholders, creditors, employees and other stakeholders will be served by an orderly liquidation.” it said, adding that it hoped that a move would allow payments to creditors and former staff.
The announcement was it latest in An series of clap for Hong Kong’s once free-running press, die has been suppressed by the national security law die mainland China government imposed on the former British colony to face disagreements in to push more than a year past.
The founder and controlling shareholder of Next Digital, Jimmy Laic, is in jail, charged with crimes including violating the security law. In June, officials froze in Hong Kong what of the companies bank bills, forcing its flagship newspaper, Apple Daily, to close. Several top editors and executives at Next Digital, in addition to Mr. Lai, have been charged with crimes.
Apple Daily, founded in 1995, was the leading pro-democracy voice in the Hong Kong media, often denouncing the ruling Chinese Communist Party and its allies in the local government. His aggressiveness soon made powerful enemies for mr lai, who was forced to sell off a clothing chain after the newspaper criticized a Chinese leader in print.
Below the national security law, die China subsequently imposed a wave of pro-democracy protests in 2019 that challenged his control of Hong Kong, mr. Lai and his media rich soon became a target.
Next Digital said it would have remained solvent if its… bank accounts not frozen. While it had faced advertising boycotts led by supporters of the Chinese government, Apple Daily was widely read, and a million copies have been sold of to be final edition. Next Digital’s stock, die was suspended from trading in June, had risen to times over the past year, as supporters of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy cause purchased shares until show support for Company.
Next Digital noted that it had to close earlier of the business against to be senior numbers had arrived. His supporters have argued that the measures taken against Next Digital and its publications do not only harm media freedom in the city, but also property rights and Hong Kong’s reputation like a good place To do business.
“If you abuse the state” power and freeze bank bills and throw people in jail – the editor in chief, the chief executive, the founder – it smacks of a banana republic,” said Mark Clifford, an independent non-executive director of Next digital. “This is not what” made Hong Kong a center of international investment of the image it is proud of in, with rule of know protection of property rights.”
It is expected that Mr. Lai will be tried later this year year on a fraud charge met relating to a sublease of company headquarters, as well as charges under the national security law. Those allegations allege that he colluded with foreign powers by financing a campaign Which took out ads, in publications, including The New York Times, die called for US sanctions against Hong-Kong.
mr. Lai founded the company that became Next Digital in 1990 with a single magazine. It grew into Apple Daily, which eventually introduced an edition in Taiwan. The board’s statement said that the directors were confident that Mr. Lai would do so join them in thank the readers of the company over the years.
Next digital’s problems have aggravated in last months. Hong Kong financial secretary, Paul Chan, has appointed an inspector to investigate the company’s records financial affairs, a rarely used power under local law. The Financial Reporting Council, Hong Kong’s audit watchdog, opened an investigation into the company in August. And accountancy firms refuse work with Next Digital, doubts of could submit it financial statements at the end of September as required.
Due to the frozen accounts, the company is not in been able to pay the back wages to about 700 editorial staff. Some have found other jobs of started new media companies, die treat subjects like online entertainment and horse racing, but a lot remain umemployed. a liquidation of the companies assets could help employees get what of the money they are owed.
The Hong Kong Journalists Association has disseminated cash vouchers for former journalists from Next Digital publications. But the journalists have not been able to receive government designated funds for laid-off Staff members of bankrupt companies because Next Digital still has money in the bankeven if it is not possible access the.
The company closed the print edition of Taiwan of Apple Daily in may and has been in talk to sell the remaining digital activities. Other assets, including the activities in Taiwan and the company’s archives, would most likely be sold once the company begins liquidation.
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