On Wednesday, national security officers stormed the office of Hong Kong pro-democracy media organization Stand News and arrested seven persons involved with the newspaper. It’s yet another setback for the city’s dwindling press liberties.
On its Facebook page, the independent news website stated that it had discontinued operations and fired all staff, effective immediately. Stand News will stop updating its website and social media accounts immediately, according to the statement, and they will be erased within days.
Police arrested numerous current and former senior staff members linked with the publication, including pop sensation Denise Ho, according to the announcement.
The arrests were linked to various “seditious” pieces published by the site between July 2020 and November 2021, according to Steve Li Kwai-wah, senior superintendent of the Hong Kong police’s National Security Department, who spoke at a news conference Wednesday afternoon.
Li also claimed that authorities raided the news organization’s office in the city’s Kwun Tong neighborhood and froze approximately 61 million Hong Kong dollars ($7.8 million) in assets.
According to a government statement released earlier Wednesday, 200 police officers were involved in the newsroom raid, which resulted in the seizure of journalistic materials.
Former members of the news outlet’s board of directors Ho and Margaret Ng, a former pro-democracy lawmaker and notable barrister, were among those arrested. According to the Hong Kong Journalists Association, former Stand News head editor Chung Pui-kuen and acting chief editor Patrick Lam were also arrested (HKJA).
Despite the fact that an original government notification issued on Wednesday mentioned a “conspiracy to publish seditious publications” — claims based on a colonial-era crimes ordinance – the officers involved in the Stand News investigation are national security officers.
The arrests came at the conclusion of a tumultuous year for Hong Kong’s press freedoms, which bills itself as “Asia’s World City” and formerly boasted of being the region’s main international media hub.
Since Beijing imposed a broad National Security Law on the city in 2020, the city’s formerly lively media ecosystem has shriveled, leading to the closure of the highly vocal pro-democracy site Apple Daily earlier this year.
“The Hong Kong Journalists Association is deeply concerned that the police have repeatedly arrested senior members of the media and searched the offices of news organizations containing large quantities of journalistic materials within a year,” the HKJA said in a statement Wednesday, urging the government to “to protect press freedom in accordance with the Basic Law,” the city’s de facto constitution since 1997.