The Hong Kong-based pro-democracy-online media outlet Stand News announced Wednesday that it was shutting down after being targeted for searches and seven arrests for “treasonous publication”, the latest episode of repression on the local press by officials loyal to Beijing.
The repression comes as the international community worries about a relentless recovery in Hong Kong from the 2019 democratic struggle.
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has condemned the “open attack on press freedom already torn in Hong Kong” and accused Amnesty International of “using officials as instruments of Hong Kong law.”
Hong Kong National Security Police Chief Steve Lee said Stand News was accused of posting “treasonous” 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 basis in fact,” Li said.
He denied that the police had attacked the media, assuring them that there would be no problem with publications writing non-partisan articles.
At noon on Wednesday, I was able to see the police taking out the stand news boxes. According to Li, computers, phones, documents and 500,000 Hong Kong dollars were seized.
He further added that HKD 61 million assets owned by Stand News have been frozen.
More than 200 agents raided the homes of Stand News headquarters and several of its staff on Wednesday.
An AFP reporter, the publication’s editor, Patrick Lam, was seen being handcuffed and pushed into stand-alone news offices.
According to local media, police arrested Cantonese pop star Denise Ho, lawyer Chung Pui-kuen, a former teacher who resigned in June, and four former group members, including former Hong Kong lawmaker Margaret Eng; And former Apple Daily correspondent San Pui-man, mr. Sung’s wife.
Mr. Li did not rule out further arrests, as some wanted were not in Hong Kong territory.
Ranson Chan, assistant editor of Stand News, the head of the Hong Kong Journalists Association, said his home was raided and computer equipment seized. But he was not arrested.
“Due to the current situation, Stand News will immediately suspend its operations and stop updating its (Internet) site and all its social networks,” the release said.
Stand News reported that all of its employees had been fired and that its editor-in-chief Patrick Lam had resigned and that the website would soon be taken offline.
“The Stand News editorial was independent and dedicated to upholding Hong Kong’s core values such as democracy, human rights, freedom, the rule of law and justice,” it was founded in 2014 and recommended without reporters in November. Boundaries (RSF) Press Freedom Prize.
But John Lee, deputy Hong Kong chief executive Gary Lam, said the detainees were “abusing their activities (…) as evil elements (…) media personnel”.
During the 2019 protests, several stand-up journalists got into trouble with the police.
In one popular episode, one of her reporters filmed live the UV attack carried out by a group of masked individuals against demonstrators for democracy at a metro station, following which the attackers attacked her.
Stand News has been the target of harsh criticism from officials in recent months.
This is the second local media to be silenced by the authorities.
In June, the newspaper Apple Daily, which defends democracy, shut down after its assets were frozen and its top executives arrested under a draconian new national security law imposed by Beijing in July 2020.
Several Hong Kong protesters who fled abroad condemned the arrest on Wednesday.
Nathan Law, a deported opponent in the United Kingdom, tweeted: “The Communist Party of China continues to dare journalists and the media to tell the truth.”
“Stand News is one of the last symbols of the independent press in Hong Kong, and we do not know if it will sustain this repression,” said Brian Leung, a spokesman for the Hong Kong Democratic Council movement, which is headquartered in the United States. .
The Hong Kong Press Association, which represents local and foreign journalists respectively, and the Foreign Correspondents’ Club said they were “deeply concerned”.
EU diplomatic spokesman Peter Stano condemned the “worsening of press freedom” in Hong Kong.
The German Foreign Ministry said in a statement that the search “” shows that the law on national security and other rules is being used arbitrarily and selectively against critical voices “.