(Hong Kong) The Hong Kong-based online pro-democracy newspaper, Stand News, has announced its closure after being targeted with searches and seven arrests for “seditious publication”, in the latest episode in a crackdown on local press by pro-government authorities. Beijing.
The crackdown comes as the international community is concerned about the continued recovery in Hong Kong since the 2019 democracy protests.
The Committee to Protect Journalists denounced the “public attack on an already fractured press freedom in Hong Kong” and Amnesty International accused “the authorities of abusing Hong Kong law”.
The head of Hong Kong’s National Security Police, Steve Lee, said Stand News was accused of publishing “seditious” articles and blogs between July 2020 and November 2021.
“They have described the Hong Kong protesters as ‘missing’ or ‘rapists’… These are vicious allegations without any factual basis,” Lee said.
He denied that the police attack the media, stressing that publications that write unbiased articles will not face any problems.
Police were seen at midday Wednesday pulling out Stand News boxes. Lee said computers, phones, documents and 500,000 Hong Kong dollars (56,856 euros) in cash were confiscated.
In addition, he added, HK$61 million of assets owned by Stand News had been frozen.
On Wednesday, more than 200 customers raided the headquarters of Stand News and the homes of several of its employees.
An AFP reporter saw the newspaper’s editor, Patrick Lamm, handcuffed to the Stand News offices.
According to local media, police also arrested former editor Chung Boye Quinn and four former board members who resigned in June, including Cantonese pop star Denise Ho and lawyer and former Hong Kong legislator Margaret Ng; And a former reporter for Apple’s Daily. Chan Boy Man, Mr. Chung’s wife.
Mr. Lee did not rule out further arrests, as some of the wanted persons are not in the Hong Kong region.
Stand News deputy editor-in-chief Ronson Chan, who is also president of the Hong Kong Journalists Association, said his home was searched and computers confiscated. But he was not arrested.
“Due to the current situation, Stand News will immediately cease its activity and will stop updating its website (website) and all of its social networks,” the post declared.
Stand News also said that all of its staff have been laid off, that its editor-in-chief Patrick Lamm has resigned and that the site will soon be shut down.
“Stand News was an independent editorial dedicated to protecting core values of Hong Kong such as democracy, human rights, freedom, rule of law and justice,” continued the outlet, which was set up in 2014 and was nominated. In November the Reporters Without Borders (Reporters Without Borders) Press Freedom Award was awarded.
Second, the target media
But John Lee, Hong Kong’s executive vice president Carrie Lam, said the detainees were “evil elements”. […] Exploiting their jobs […] media workers.
During the 2019 protests, several Stand News journalists had problems with the police.
In a famous episode, one of his reporters filmed live a UV attack carried out by a masked group against democracy protesters in a metro station, and continued filming while the attackers attacked it.
Stand News has been the target of sharp criticism in recent months from authorities.
It is the second local media to be silenced by the authorities.
In June, the pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily closed after its assets were frozen and its top officials were arrested under a tough new national security law imposed by Beijing in July 2020.
Several Hong Kong opponents who have fled abroad denounced Wednesday’s arrests.
“The Chinese Communist Party continues to go after journalists and media outlets who dare to contradict it and tell the truth,” dissident Nathan Luo wrote on Twitter in exile in the United Kingdom.
“Stand News represents one of the last remnants of independent journalism in Hong Kong, and we are not sure if it will survive this crackdown,” said Brian Leung, a representative of the Hong Kong Democracy Council Movement, which is headquartered in the United States. .
The Hong Kong Journalists’ Association and the Foreign Correspondents’ Club, which represent local and foreign journalists respectively, said they were “deeply concerned”.
EU diplomacy spokesman Peter Stano denounced a “further deterioration in press freedom” in Hong Kong.
These “searches […] It shows once again that the National Security Law and other provisions are being applied arbitrarily and selectively to combat critical voices,” said the German Foreign Ministry.
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