The Hong Kong digital medium Stand News, whose editorial line is popular with the pro-democratic opposition of the former British colony, has announced that it is closing just hours after the arrest of several executives and former executives after a police raid.
It’s a statement posted on their official Facebook page, Stand News has announced the “immediate cessation of its operations”, the resignation of its hitherto acting director – also arrested this morning – and the dismissal of all its workers. “The police have arrested several directors and former directors of the company, they have taken several people to collaborate in the investigation and have seized several computers and some documents from the offices,” the media reported in its latest Facebook message.
More than 200 policemen have participated in the police operation, who have carried out a raid on the media offices and searches on the homes of those arrested, suspected of “printing or distributing seditious material.” In videos captured during the raid, police officers can be seen taking boxes from the newsroom.
Among those arrested are the current director of the outlet, Lam Shiu-tung, his predecessor until last month, Chung Pui-kuen, and the singer and activist Denise Ho Wan, a former member of the board of directors and one of the most recognizable faces of the opposition from Hong Kong, which even denounced to the UN Human Rights Council “the erosion of Hong Kong’s autonomy by China.”
Lawyer Margaret Ng, who last April had already been sentenced to 12 months in prison for the 2019 protests, has also been arrested, albeit with a two-year suspension of her sentence.
Shortly before dawn, Stand News had broadcast live on Facebook that the national security police stood at the door of Stand News editor and chairman of the Hong Kong Journalists Association, Ronson Chan Ron-sing. In the video, the agents are seen telling Chan that they had a warrant to investigate the charges of “conspiracy to seditious publication.” Chan’s home was registered, as reported The Guardian.
Ronson was taken to a police station by police for questioning but was ultimately not arrested, despite which the Association he chairs has expressed “deep concern” over the numerous arrests of media workers and raids on publishing offices in the last year.
“Stand News has always carried out professional reporting work, this is beyond question,” Chan later told reporters. “Criminal charges will not change this fact.”
Last June, Stand News was one of the first media to take preventive measures, such as suspending its subscription plan and most of its opinion pieces, after the police went to the offices of the now-closed newspaper criticizing authorities Apple Daily and carried out a raid under the National Security Law that Beijing introduced in the autonomous city, which has been criticized by the Hong Kong opposition. Said law establishes penalties of up to life imprisonment for cases of secession, subversion, terrorism or collusion with foreign forces.
The closure of Apple Daily drew the attention of the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and Reporters Without Borders (RSF), which has called on democracies to take steps to force China to change its repressive policies by expressly mentioning the worsening freedom of expression in Hong Kong.