Interview: 'The Chinese want Apple Daily in Taiwan closed'

JImmy Lai assistant Mark Simon says Hong Kong legal authorities are abetting China's crackdown on Apple Daily.
Interview: 'The Chinese want Apple Daily in Taiwan closed' Hong Kong media tycoon Jimmy Lai (R) is being escorted into a Hong Kong Correctional Services van outside the Court of Final Appeal after being ordered to remain in jail while judges consider his fresh bail application, Feb. 1, 2021.

A Hong Kong court on Wednesday ordered the liquidation of the parent company of Apple Daily, a pro-democracy newspaper that was closed down earlier this year after its assets were frozen under a national security law that China imposed on Hong Kong in mid-2020.

Apple Daily’s founder and owner, media tycoon Jimmy Lai, and other executives have been detained and charged with collusion for outspoken columns the paper published. Lai is already serving jail sentences for attending democracy protests, and on Monday, he received an additional 13-month sentence for attending a vigil last year commemorating victims of the 1989 Tiananmen crackdown, which had been banned on public health and security grounds.

The decision by Hong Kong High Court judge Jack Wong on Wednesday to grant the Hong Kong government’s request in September to dissolve the Apple Daily’s parent company, Next Digital Limited, raises questions about the future of Apple Daily's edition in Taiwan, which continues to operate as a financially independent subsidiary.

Rita Cheng of RFA’s Mandarin Service spoke to Mark Simon, a long-time former assistant to Lai about recent developments.

RFA: A Hong Kong court has ruled that Next Media must be liquidated. As the right-hand man to Jimmy Lai, what does this mean to you?

Simon: There’s no judge there, once they declared national security judges, and national security judges are chosen because they're loyal. That's the only qualification.

What impact will the compulsory liquidation order from the Hong Kong High Court have on Taiwan’s Apple Daily?

The main villain here, in all seriousness, is the Chinese Communist Party. But their instrument is [Hong Kong’s Financial Secretary] Paul Chan. He's the one who came and said ‘we need you to wind this up.’ Why does he want to wind it up at this point in time? Why does he need to do that? He's winding it up because he they do not want the Taiwan Apple Daily to be sold. Taiwan Apple Daily is a functioning business just like Apple daily Hong Kong was.

I know of four companies who are willing to spend about nine to 10 million U.S. dollars on acquiring…the average bid going in there right now is US ten million and the assumption of all liabilities. Why won't they just take that money? That's what a liquidator should do. The government, the Chinese, want Apple Daily in Taiwan closed, so they are going out of their way to do this.

I think what they're doing is they're trying to cut Apple Daily off … and the people of Taiwan who are starting to rise up and say ‘Hey, what's going on with Apple daily?’ Well that's why they cut it off.

Who do they send in for lawyers for Apple Daily? They send in a couple of government lawyers. You know, nobody contacted the major shareholder, who's us. Shareholders have had no representation whatsoever.

They’re slow walking Jimmy, because they've now got judiciary under control. If you're n NSL judge you are literally just an extension of the police state.  Have they lost one single case? I don't even think they've lost a motion. Now think about that.


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