Hong Kong police stormed the office of pro-democracy news website Stand News on Wednesday, arresting seven current and former staff members on suspicion of “conspiracy to print seditious publications”.
So, what went down at Stand News HQ on Wednesday?
Over 200 national security personnel searched the publication’s headquarters on Wednesday morning, police said. The police stated they might “examine and seize relevant journalistic materials.”
“Police arrested a number of senior and former senior workers of the organisation this morning,” Stand News’ official Facebook profile stated. The company said the raid recovered computers and documents.
Due to the situation, Stand News has halted operations, according to a Facebook post. Stand News’ acting editor in chief, Patrick Lam, has resigned.
Government critics, particularly news media outlets, have been targeted since the contentious new national security law was enacted in Hong Kong. The popular pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily had to close early this year, leaving Stand News as one of the last pro-democracy news venues in town.
Earlier in the day, the website posted video of cops outside one of its deputy editors’ homes.
Six persons were arrested, including former and acting head editors of Stand News Chung Pui-kuen and Patrick Lam, and pop star-turned-activist Denise Ho. Margaret Ng, Christine Fang, and Chow Tat-chi were also detained. Chan escaped arrest but was questioned.
The police action against the magazine was endorsed by Chief Secretary of Police John Lee, who warned there will be “zero tolerance” for behaviour that harms national security, according to the BBC.
“Using the media to further their political or other objectives is illegal, especially when it threatens national security,” he added. “Evil elements harm press freedom.”
Do we know Stand News?
Stand News, an independent news website, was founded in 2014 and criticised the ruling Chinese Communist Party harshly.
The journal was the only Hong Kong-based media organisation to collaborate with a global consortium of news outlets, including The Indian Express, earlier this year.
Authorities in Hong Kong have regularly targeted Stand News, and most of its content has been blocked.
The New York Times stated that Hong Kong’s security secretary, Chris Tang, accused the website of posting “biassed, disparaging and demonising” reports about jail conditions. “Stand News will come to an end,” said Lau Siu-kai, a Beijing adviser.
Why is Hong Kong censoring independent media?
Hong Kong’s severe national security law has resulted in journalists being jailed and media outfits like Stand News being shuttered. In contrast to the CCP-controlled media in mainland China, Hong Kong’s political diversity was suffocated by the new law.
It focuses on four crimes: terrorism, subversion, secession, and cooperation with foreign forces. While it does not specifically address journalists or news outlets, legal experts say the imprecise language has consequences for them.
New security rules make sedition illegal. New laws empower police to use colonial-era statutes like the Crime Ordinance, which encompasses sedition.