In Hong Kong, pro-democracy media Stand News closes after wave of arrests

In Hong Kong, Stand News, a pro-democracy online media outlet, announced its closure after a series of searches.

Hong Kong pro-democracy online outlet Stand News announced its closure on Wednesday after being targeted by a series of searches and at least six arrests for “seditious publication”, the latest episode in the crackdown on the local press by the authorities pro-Beijing.

The crackdown comes as the international community worries about the relentless takeover in Hong Kong since the 2019 pro-democracy protests. The Committee to Protect Journalists has denounced “an open attack on freedom of the press already in tatters in Hong Kong “.

Police said they had arrested six people for “conspiring” to disseminate a “seditious publication”.

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More than 200 agents carried out searches on Wednesday at the headquarters of Stand News and the homes of several media employees. The police said they had been authorized by a court to “search and seize journalistic material of interest”.

An AFP reporter saw the publication’s editor-in-chief, Patrick Lam, being taken in handcuffs into the offices of Stand News.

Nominated for the RSF Press Freedom Prize

According to local media reports, police also arrested former editor Chung Pui-kuen, as well as four former board members who resigned in June. These include Cantonese pop star Denise Ho and lawyer and former Hong Kong Legislative Council member Margaret Ng. The other two former members are Christine Fang and Chow Tat-chi.

Stand News deputy editor-in-chief Ronson Chan, also chairman of the Hong Kong Journalists Association, said his home was searched and computer equipment was seized by police. But he was not arrested.

“Due to the current situation, Stand News will cease operations immediately, and will stop updating its site and all of its social networks,” the post announced on its Facebook page.

Stand News also said that all of its staff had been laid off, that its editor Patrick Lam had resigned, and that the site would be taken offline soon.

“Stand News was editorially independent, and was dedicated to protecting Hong Kong’s core values ​​such as democracy, human rights, liberty, the rule of law and justice,” continued the outlet, established in 2014 and named in November for the Reporters Without Borders Press Freedom Prize.

During the 2019 pro-democracy protests, several Stand News journalists had trouble with the police.

In one famous episode, a media reporter filmed live the ultraviolet attack by a group of masked individuals against pro-democracy protesters in a metro station, and continued to film even as the attackers took to the streets. took it to her.

Stand News has been the target in recent months of sharp criticism from the authorities. Hong Kong security official Chris Tang had recently accused him of publishing “biased, defamatory and demonized” information about the city’s prisons.

It is the second local newspaper company to find itself in the crosshairs of the authorities.

“One of the last vestiges of independent journalism in Hong Kong”

In June, the pro-democracy Apple Daily closed after its assets were frozen and its top executives were arrested under a drastic new national security law imposed by Beijing in July 2020.

Several Hong Kong opponents who fled abroad condemned Wednesday’s arrests.

“The Chinese Communist Party continues to prosecute journalists and media who dare to contradict it and speak the truth. The arrests of Denise Ho and Maraget Ng are prime examples,” tweeted opponent Nathan Law, in exile in the Kingdom. -United.

“Stand News is one of the last vestiges of independent journalism in Hong Kong and we are not sure it can survive this crackdown,” said Brian Leung, representative of the movement based in the United States Hong Kong Democracy Council. .

The Hong Kong Journalists Association and the Foreign Correspondent Club, which represent local and foreign journalists respectively, said they were “deeply concerned”.

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