Govt urges ‘Apple Daily friends’ to turn informants

Security Secretary Chris Tang on Friday called on former Apple Daily workers to inform the authorities if they saw any national security breaches or other illegal acts during their time with the newspaper, suggesting the media outlet hadn’t treated its staff very well.

Tang accused the paper of “escaping its responsibility” to pay staff their final wages when it closed down last month, saying that only the month before the company had stated it had assets of around HK$300 million.

The security chief questioned why the firm didn’t make use of HK$150 million that was repaid to Apple Daily founder Jimmy Lai, rather than asking his bureau to release HK$18 million in assets frozen during a national security probe into the newspaper.

Lai is himself a national security suspect and his personal assets have also been frozen.

“It’s Apple Daily’s responsibility to pay staff wages. It’s giving us an impression that [Apple Daily] is using all sort of ways to not pay for their hard work. I think this is irresponsible,” Tang told reporters after attending an event.

“All friends from Apple Daily, if you found anyone or your organisation violated any law, including the national security law, during your time at work, please fulfil your obligation and report to the police,” he said.

Despite raising concerns about staff going unpaid, Tang did not say whether he would release the company’s frozen assets.

Apple Daily blamed the assets freeze for having to cease operations in June. Several of its top executives have been charged with conspiracy to collude with foreign forces, a charge Lai also faces.