Hong Kong newspaper Stand News closes after police raid and arrest of publishers

The Hong Kong pro-democracy daily Stand News announced its closure on Wednesday following the arrest of seven current and former employees and a police raid on its newsroom illustrating the waning freedom of the press in this international business hub.

“Due to the current situation, Stand News will stop operating immediately and it will stop updating its website and social networks, “which will be closed in a few days, said this digital newspaper on Facebook hours after a police operation.

More than 200 uniformed and plainclothes officers participated in the searches of the newsroom and private homes in which they seized telephones, computers, documents and more than $ 64,000 in cash, police said.

They also arrested seven people on the offense of “conspiracy to spread a seditious publication” included in an old British colonial law.

Stand News is the second pro-democracy outlet to be shut down in Hong Kong following a police operation. In June, the Apple Daily, fiercely critical of Beijing, closed after freezing its assets and arresting several officials.

This second operation raises concerns about press freedom in this theoretically semi-autonomous city and regional headquarters of numerous international media, in which Beijing is expanding its control since the 2019 protests.

The Committee to Protect Journalists described the search as “an open assault on Hong Kong’s already cracked press freedom.”

Stand News editor-in-chief Patrick Lam left the building where the newspaper’s newsroom is located in handcuffs, an AFP journalist observed.

Local media reported that those arrested also included the former editor-in-chief, Chung Pui-kuen, and four board members who resigned in June, including local pop star Denise Ho and lawyer Margaret Ng.

Police Superintendent Steve Li accused the outlet of publishing hateful articles against the Hong Kong government between July 2020 and November 2021, such as saying that protesters were “missing” or whose rights were “violated.”

“These are malicious accusations without factual basis,” Li said at a press conference, also announcing the freezing of $ 7.8 million of assets.

The superintendent also claimed that they were investigating how Donation-funded Stand News could afford an office in the UK and whether it had other purposes such as conspiring abroad.

This branch was also closed on Wednesday, a source told AFP.

Editorially independent

Shortly before dawn, Stand News posted on Facebook that the national security police were at the door of the house of on-duty deputy editor Ronson Chan, who was not detained.

A few hours later, the media announced on that same platform its closure, the resignation of its chief editor Patrick Lam and the dismissal of the rest of the employees.

Founded as a non-profit online outlet in 2014, Stand News was nominated for the Reporters Without Borders Freedom of the Press award in November.

“Stand News was editorially independent and dedicated to protecting Hong Kong’s core values ​​such as democracy, human rights, freedom and the role of law and justice,” the outlet said in its departure.

During the massive and often violent protests of 2019, the police clashed with several of their reporters.

Following these demonstrations, Beijing increased its control over the former British colony, especially with the imposition in June 2020 of a national security law that has served as an umbrella to detain and imprison numerous opponents.

After learning about the operation, the Hong Kong Journalists Association and the Foreign Correspondents Club were “deeply concerned” and called for respect for press freedom.

Exiled activist Nathan Law tweeted that the arrests reflect the authorities’ persecution of journalists and media that “dare to challenge them and speak the truth.”

However, Hong Kong Chief Secretary John Lee said the individuals arrested were “bad guys harming press freedom” and “bad apples abusing the position … of media worker.”



Reference-www.eleconomista.com.mx

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