HK Security Bureau rebuts Next Digital's open letter

Hong Kong's Security Bureau has issued a statement in response to Next Digital's open letter released on Sunday, which urged Hongkongers to recognise the facts, and avoid being misled.

The Security Bureau said any prosecution and other law enforcement actions taken by the law enforcement agencies are based on evidence, strictly according to the law, and for the acts of the persons or entities concerned. Next Digital said in the statement that the Hong Kong government had never indicated which articles published by Apple Daily allegedly violated the National Security Law, but the Security Bureau said the prosecution case had already been stipulated clearly in the allegations submitted by the prosecution to the court in writing during the legal proceedings, and supplied to the defendants.

During the stage of mention hearing, the prosecution case will only be disclosed to the defendants and their legal representatives but not the general public. 

The bureau then rebutted Next Digital's claim that the Secretary for Security had cited the National Security Law to freeze company bank accounts, including those for Apple Daily newspaper in Hong Kong and its digital operations, which had caused Apple Daily to cease operation as it could no longer legally pay Apple Daily’s staff. 

The bureau said, "Next Digital Limited stated that the group had sufficient liquidity, and as at March 31, 2021, the group had a working capital of approximately HKD 520 million, which would be sufficient for the operation of Next Digital Limited for 18 months from April 2021 onwards."

"Next Digital Limited subsequently made an announcement in July 2021, disclosing that it had made an early loan repayment of HKD 150 million to its former chairman and major shareholder. The above situation shows that there is no such thing as Next Digital Limited being forced into liquidation due to a lack of funds arising from enforcement actions," the bureau said.

It added that Next Digital was trying to shift its responsibility, and was maliciously smearing the Hong Kong National Security Law. 
The Security Bureau also expressed regret over the misleading statements by the members concerned at the board of directors of Next Digital, reiterating that law enforcement authorities will continue to handle the case and pursue legal action strictly in accordance with the law.

Next Digital announced that all directors had resigned and is going into liquidation. In a statement, the company said four directors, including non-executive director and chairman Ip Yut-kin, independent non-executive directors Louis Gordon Crovitz, Mark Lambert Clifford and Elic Lam Chung-yan, had tendered their resignations all with effect as of 5 September 2021. As for its publications in Taiwan, Next Digital said several parties had expressed interest in acquiring the operation of Apple Daily there.

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