Hong Kong-based Democracy-Defender Online Media Stand News announced on Wednesday that it was closing down on Wednesday following a series of searches and seven arrests for “sedition publication”, the latest episode in a crackdown by local authorities on Beijing loyalists.
The crackdown comes as the international community worries about a relentless recovery in Hong Kong from the 2019 democratic protests.
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) condemned the “open attack on already torn press freedom in Hong Kong” and accused Amnesty International of “aiding Hong Kong law by law.”
Hong Kong National Security Police Chief Steve Lee said Stand News was accused of posting “sedition” articles and blog posts between July 2020 and November 2021.
“They described the protesters in Hong Kong as ‘missing’ or ‘raped’ … these are vicious allegations that have no real basis,” Li said.
He condemned the police attack on the media and assured that there would be no problems for publications that write unbiased articles.
On Wednesday afternoon, police were seen pulling out the stand news boxes. According to Li, computers, phones, documents and $ 500,000 in cash were seized.
In addition, he said, HKD of Stand News froze 61 million assets.
More than 200 agents raided the homes of several employees, including the Stand News headquarters, on Wednesday.
The AFP reporter saw Patrick Lam, editor-in-chief of the publication, being handcuffed into the offices of Stand News.
According to local media, police also arrested former editor Chung Pui-quen and four former board members who resigned in June, including Cantonese pop star Denise Ho, a lawyer and former Hong Kong Legislative Council member Margaret Ng; And the wife of former Apple Daily reporter Chan Puy-man, Mr. Chung.
Mr Lee did not rule out further arrests, as some wanted men were not in Hong Kong territory.
Ranson Chan, deputy editor of Stand News, also the chairman of the Hong Kong Journalists’ Association, said they searched his home and seized computer equipment. But he was not arrested.
“Due to the current situation, Stand News will immediately cease its activities and stop updating its (Internet) site and all its social networks,” the publication said.
Stand News also reported that it had fired all of its staff, that its editor-in-chief Patrick Lam had resigned and that the website would soon be taken offline.
The outlet, founded in 2014, continued and was nominated for Reporters Without In November, saying “Stand News Editorial is independent and dedicated to defending Hong Kong’s core values such as democracy, human rights, freedom, law and justice.” Boundaries (RSF) Press Freedom Prize.
But John Lee, Deputy Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam, said the detainees were “evil forces (…) abusing their duties (…) as media activists”.
During the 2019 protests, several stand-up news journalists clashed with police.
In one famous episode, one of his reporters filmed live a UV attack on a group of masked men demonstrating for democracy at a metro station, and continued filming when the attackers attacked her.
Stand News has come under heavy criticism from authorities in recent months.
It was the second local media outlet to remain silent.
In June, the newspaper defending democracy, the Apple Daily, was shut down after its assets were frozen, and its executives were arrested in July 2020 under a draconian new national security law imposed by Beijing.
Several Hong Kong opponents who fled abroad condemned the arrests on Wednesday.
Nathan Law, an exiled rival in the United Kingdom, tweeted: “The Chinese Communist Party opposes journalists and the media and dares to tell the truth.
“Stand News is one of the last remnants of independent journalism in Hong Kong and we do not know whether it will withstand this repression,” said Brian Leng, spokesman for the Hong Kong Democracy Council movement, headquartered in the United States. .
The Hong Kong Journalists’ Association and the Foreign Correspondent’s Club, which represent local and foreign journalists, respectively, are “deeply concerned”.
EU diplomat Peter Stano condemned “further deterioration of press freedom” in Hong Kong.
These searches “once again show that the law on (…) national security and other regulations has been applied unilaterally and selectively to combat critical voices,” the German Foreign Ministry said.