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Hong Kong Tabloid Is Beloved By Readers But Bedeviled By Beijing

NOEL KING, HOST:

An investigative tabloid newspaper in Hong Kong says it will close on Friday after the government froze all of its bank accounts. That outlet, called Apple Daily, has been critical of President Xi Jinping and the Chinese Communist Party. Here's NPR's Emily Feng with more on the paper's last days.

EMILY FENG, BYLINE: The takedown of Apple Daily has been fast and methodical. First, Hong Kong police arrested Apple Daily's founder, Jimmy Lai, last year.

MARK SIMON: Now we're going to freeze every bank account Jimmy Lai has so he can't put any more money into it.

FENG: That's one of his advisers, Mark Simon, recounting what has happened since. The paper had spent the last 26 years publishing gossip and hard-hitting investigations against Beijing's influence. Lai's now in prison for organizing a protest, and he faces more charges for violating national security. But Apple Daily's readers rallied.

SIMON: Oh, guess what? They don't need his money in Hong Kong 'cause Hong Kong's profitable because the people of Hong Kong are supporting Apple Daily through subscription and other things.

FENG: Readers bought more subscriptions, even Apple Daily stock, sending share prices briefly soaring. But then last week, police arrested the paper's editor-in-chief, Ryan Law, and four other senior editors and executives - their crime, allegedly commissioning articles that called for sanctions on China. Here's Ryan Law talking to French outlet AFP shortly before he expected to be arrested.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

RYAN LAW: (Non-English language spoken).

FENG: Law says, in meetings, colleagues ask him if Apple Daily will close up shop. What should his reporters do if he's arrested? Law replies, do journalism. Of course, continue working. It'll be a big news story.

And Apple Daily has the money to keep working. But the problem is they cannot access it anymore. The government has frozen their accounts. If nothing changes, Simon says, this week will be Apple Daily's last in Hong Kong.

Emily Feng, NPR News, Beijing. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Emily Feng is NPR's Beijing correspondent.

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