Hong Kong police raid independent news outlet’s office

Hong Kong police raid independent news outlet's office
Police seen outside the Stand News office building, after six people were arrested. [Photo: Reuters]

Hong Kong police have arrested six people from an independent news website for “conspiracy to publish seditious publications”.

Both current and former staff members of Stand News were among those targeted.

More than 200 police officers were also sent to raid the publication’s office.

Police said in a statement that they were authorised to “search and seize relevant journalistic materials”.

Those arrested – three men and three women – are aged between 34 and 73 years old.

The Stand News editor-in-chief is brought into a vehicle
Patrick Lam was among those arrested by police [Image Source: GETTY IMAGES]

They include the former and acting chief editors of Stand News Chung Pui-kuen and Patrick Lam, as well as pop star turned democracy icon Denise Ho, who was a former board member.

Other board members Margaret Ng, Christine Fang, and Chow Tat-chi were also among those arrested.

Hong Kong will ‘always need journalists’

Footage posted on Stand News’ Facebook page showed multiple police officers at the door of deputy assignment director Ronson Chan early Wednesday morning.

Mr Chan was not arrested but he was taken in for questioning by police.

The night before, Mr Chan had hosted the annual dinner of the Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA), of which he is chairperson. In a speech, he referenced the closure of Apple Daily, saying that the incident had “shaken” Hong Kong.

He concluded by saying the city would “always need the truth and always need journalists …. no matter how difficult the road ahead is, the [Hong Kong Journalists Association] will not fall down”.

Earlier this year, hundreds of police raided the premises of the now defunct Apple Daily – a publication known for being a vocal critic of the Hong Kong and Chinese leadership.

Its assets were frozen, executives were detained and the paper shut down soon after.

Its closure left Stand News as one of the last openly pro-democratic publications in the city. It was among a handful of relatively new online news portals that especially gained prominence during the 2019 pro-democracy protests.

Presentational grey line

‘Once a beacon of press freedom’

Grace Tsoi, BBC News Hong Kong

Today’s raid did not come as a surprise.

A few days after the closure of Apple Daily, Stand News announced they would be taking measures to lower their risks, saying they would stop accepting donations from readers – followed by the resignation of six of its directors.

One staff member who does not want to be named said today he felt calm as it was expected.

“I hope everyone will be safe and press freedom is not a crime,” he said, but didn’t want to respond when asked if he felt worried about his own safety and that of his 60 colleagues.

Hong Kong was once a beacon of press freedom in Asia, but now, one cannot help wonder which outlet might come next.

Presentational grey line

The arrests also come a day after media tycoon Jimmy Lai, the founder of Apple Daily, was slapped with the same charge even as he serves a jail sentence for a litany of separate charges against him.

The Committee to Protect Journalists condemned the arrests, saying it amounted to “an open assault on Hong Kong’s already tattered press freedom, as China steps up direct control over the former colony”.

Meanwhile, HKJA said in a statement that it was “deeply concerned” about Wednesday’s incident, and urged “the government to protect press freedom in accordance with the Basic Law.”

Press freedom in Hong Kong

The Basic Law, which came into effect when Hong Kong was handed back to China from Britain, protects rights such as freedom of assembly and freedom of speech.

Hong Kong authorities have been increasingly cracking down on dissent in the city, following the imposition of a national security law.

The controversial law criminalises secession, subversion and collusion with foreign forces, and carries a maximum sentence of life in prison.

Critics says the law effectively reduces Hong Kong’s judicial autonomy and made it easier to punish demonstrators and activists.

Source: BBC

PD Admin

Staff writer, The Postdale Daily

Latest from Asia