Last edition of Hong Kong pro-democracy Apple Daily newspaper to be published on Thursday following arrests

Five Apple Daily executives have been arrested under Hong Kong's new security law. Credit: AP

The Hong Kong pro-democracy Apple Daily newspaper will publish its final edition on Thursday as it announced its closure following the arrest five editors and executives and the freezing of its assets.

Journalist groups strongly condemned the actions taken against the paper by the authorities that have led to its closure.

In a joint statement, signed by seven leading media organisations and unions, the Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA) said it was angry "for the loss of this much valued multi-media press group that had long been pursuing and defending journalism".

In the statement, HKJA said those representing the organisation and others in the media would be wearing black "protest of the government’s blow against freedom of press" on Thursday 24 June.

"We cannot take to the streets to express our dissatisfaction as we are bound by the group gathering ban, but it won’t keep us silent," it said.

Last week five staff members were detained on suspicion of colluding with foreigners to endanger national security.

Police cited more than 30 articles published by the paper as evidence of an alleged conspiracy to impose foreign sanctions on Hong Kong and China.

The paper also had its assets frozen by the authorities that meant the board of directors struggled to release funds to pay wages.

The police operation against Apple Daily drew criticism from the US, EU and the UK, which say Hong Kong and Chinese authorities are targeting the freedoms promised to the city when the former British colony was returned to China in 1997.

Chinese and Hong Kong officials have said the media must abide by the law, and that press freedom cannot be used as a “shield” for illegal activities.