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Hong Kong pro-democracy tabloid Apple Daily to print last edition on Thursday

Police last week froze assets of companies linked to the newspaper and arrested five executives.

HONG KONG — Hong Kong's pro-democracy tabloid Apple Daily said it will print its last edition on Thursday, after a tumultuous year in which it was raided by police and its tycoon owner and other staff were arrested under a new national security law.

The end of the popular 26-year-old tabloid, which mixes pro-democracy discourse with racy celebrity gossip and investigations of those in power, has escalated alarm over media freedom and other rights in the Chinese-ruled city.

In a statement on its website, Next Digital said the decision to close the newspaper, which employs about 600 journalists, was taken "due to the current circumstances prevailing in Hong Kong."

Cable TV and Now TV reported the paper's last edition may be published as soon as Thursday.

Police last week froze assets of companies linked to the newspaper and arrested five executives. On Wednesday, it arrested a columnist on suspicion of conspiring to collude with a foreign country or foreign forces.

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Copies of Next Digital's Apple Daily newspapers at a newsstand in Hong Kong, China, in May.Lam Yik / Reuters file

Authorities have said dozens of Apple Daily pieces may have violated the security law, the first instance of authorities taking aim at media articles under the legislation.

Rights groups, media organizations and Western governments have criticized last week's raid of the Apple Daily newsroom by about 500 officers and seizure of journalistic materials on national security grounds.

A senior executive at Next Digital said a lead writer for editorials and a reporter had been arrested, without identifying them. It was unclear why the reporter was arrested.

Police, who typically do not disclose the names of those arrested, said one of the people they had detained was a 55-year-old man. A police representative said the department had no immediate information on a second arrest.

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said on Tuesday that criticism of last week's raid and arrests at Apple Daily amounted to attempts to "beautify" acts that endangered national security.

Apple Daily has come under increasing pressure since its tycoon owner and staunch Beijing critic, Jimmy Lai, was arrested last year under the contentious legislation. Lai, whose assets have also been frozen under the security law, is already serving a prison sentence for taking part in unauthorized assemblies.