Hong Kong media outlet Stand News to close after police raid and arrests

Authorities say the national security law has restored order after often-violent pro-democracy unrest in 2019 and that it does not curb rights and freedoms.

Police officers guard outside the building of the Stand News office in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong's CitizenNews will shut down to "ensure the safety of everyone". Source: AP

Hong Kong's pro-democracy media outlet Stand News will cease operations after police raided the news site's office and arrested seven current and former staff members.

Stand News said in a statement posted on Facebook that acting editor-in-chief Patrick Lam had resigned and all employees have been terminated.

"Because of the current situation, Stand News will stop operating immediately, and stop updating its website and all social media," the outlet said in a statement, adding its website and social media accounts will be taken down soon.

A Facebook post on Stand News announcing the ceasing of operations
The publication posted on Facebook announcing it was ceasing operations.

Hundreds of Hong Kong national security police raided the office and made arrests for "conspiracy to publish seditious publications".

Stand News, set up in 2014 as a non-profit, was the most prominent remaining pro-democracy publication in Hong Kong after a national security probe earlier this year led to the .

The raid further raises concerns about the freedom of speech and of the press in the former British colony, which returned to Chinese rule in 1997 with the promise a wide range of individual rights would be protected.

Police said in a statement it was conducting a search with a warrant authorising it "to search and seize relevant journalistic materials".

"Over 200 uniformed and plainclothes police officers have been deployed during the operation. The search operation is underway," the statement said.

Sedition is not a crime under the sweeping national security law imposed by Beijing on the city last June.

But recent court judgements have freed authorities to use powers conferred by the new legislation to deploy previously sparsely used colonial-era laws, including the Crime Ordinance which covers sedition.

Editor of Stand News Patrick Lam, center, is arrested by police officers
The editor of Stand News, Patrick Lam, was among those arrested. Source: AP

Authorities say the national security law has restored order after often-violent pro-democracy unrest in 2019 and that it does not curb rights and freedoms.

But critics say the legislation is a tool to quash dissent.

In June, hundreds of police raided the premises of the pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily, arresting executives for alleged "collusion with a foreign country". The newspaper subsequently shut down.

Hong Kong broadcaster TVB said the six people arrested on Wednesday included former board members Margaret Ng, a former democratic legislator, and Denise Ho, a pop singer, as well as acting chief editor Patrick Lam.

Stand News posted a video of police arriving at the residence of Ronson Chan, its deputy assignment editor who is also the head of the Hong Kong Journalists Association.

"The charge was conspiracy to publish seditious publications. This is the court warrant and this is my warrant card. Your phone is obstructing our work," an officer is seen saying.

Police said in a separate statement that they had arrested three men and three women, aged 34 to 73, and that searches of their homes were underway. It did not name those arrested, in line with its usual practice.

Journalists wait outside the building of the Stand News office
Hong Kong police say they have arrested six current and former staff members of an online media company for conspiracy to publish a seditious publication. Source: AP

The Stand News bureau in an industrial building in the Kwun Tong working-class district was partially sealed off by dozens of police, according to a Reuters reporter at the scene.

A police media liaison officer on the 14th floor said entry to the office would not be permitted given an “ongoing operation”. He declined to give further details.

Four police vans were parked downstairs as dozens of police milled around the lobby.

3 min read
Published 29 December 2021 at 2:27pm
Source: AFP, Reuters, SBS