A government notice on Wednesday said officers arrested six current and former staff members of “an online media company” in the morning for “conspiracy to publish seditious publications.”
“There were three men and three women, aged between 34 and 73, in the detainees. Searches at their respective homes are underway,” the statement said, without identifying the individuals or the company.
In a separate statement, the government said 200 national security police officers stormed a newsroom in the Kwun Tong area and confiscated newspaper material.
The Hong Kong Association of Journalists (HKJA) confirmed shortly after that Stand News was the publication and listed the names of those arrested.
The city’s once vibrant media landscape has faded since Beijing enacted a comprehensive national security law in the city in 2020, which led to the closure of the fiercely pro-democracy Apple Daily in early ‘this year.
The government’s notice on Wednesday referred to allegations from a colonial-era crime ordinance, but the police involved in the Stand News case are national security agents. Authorities have not yet given further details on the allegations.
“The Hong Kong Journalists Association is deeply concerned that the police have repeatedly arrested high-ranking members of the media and searched the offices of news organizations that contain large amounts of journalistic material in one year.” the HKJA said in a statement on Wednesday, adding that it urged. the government to “protect the freedom of the press in accordance with the Basic Law,” the de facto constitution of the city since 1997.
The association added that Ronson Chan Ron-sing, the deputy editor of the Stand News allotment and the president of HKJA, was also “taken away by the police”.
Stand News had posted a video of police arriving at Chan’s home for a raid on Wednesday morning. Chan later told local Hong Kong media that he had not been arrested.
“The bet is high”
The HKJA has continued to speak out in support of press freedom, despite facing criticism from Hong Kong officials and Chinese state media.
The latest police action came hours after the HKJA hosted its annual dinner on Tuesday, which had been delayed by more than a year due to coronavirus restrictions.
“We know there’s a lot at stake, but press freedom has been the backbone of Hong Kong’s success,” Chan said in a speech at the dinner. “Hong Kong will always need the truth as well as journalists. No matter how hard the road, the association will strive to never fail.”
Among those arrested were Cantonese pop star and prominent pro-democracy activist Denise Ho. She was arrested at her home at 6 a.m., her assistant confirmed to CNN Business, who asked not to be named.
He served on the Stand News board. Police spent more than two hours at the singer’s home and confiscated phones and computers, as well as her ID and passport, her assistant told CNN Business.
Others arrested include Margaret Ng, a former pro-democracy lawmaker and prominent lawyer, former Stand News editor-in-chief Chung Pui-kuen and acting editor-in-chief Patrick Lam, according to the HKJA.
At the Stand News office, police gathered about 30 boxes of “evidence,” a local police spokesman told CNN Business.
Stand News raids come a day after jailed Jimmy Lai, founder of Apple Daily, was accused of “producing and distributing seditious publications.”
A “shock wave in Hong Kong”
Speaking at the annual HKJA dinner on Tuesday, Chan described the arrest of Lai and her colleagues and the subsequent closure of Apple Daily as a “shock wave across Hong Kong” that “had a big impact on news workers who are still fighting on the front lines every time. ” day”.
Chan also acknowledged the HKJA’s growing difficulty in filling its executive committee positions, due to concerns about its personal safety and career prospects.
“In fact, the post of vice president is still vacant and will remain so until November. This shows that many colleagues perceive that becoming a member of the HKJA executive committee could make life precarious,” Chan said.
In a statement on Wednesday, the FCC in Hong Kong said it was “deeply concerned” about the arrests associated with Stand News.
“These actions are once again in press freedom in Hong Kong and will continue to cool the media environment in the city after a difficult year for the city’s media,” he said.
The National Security Act was drafted in Beijing and enacted in Hong Kong in June 2020. The law criminalized acts of secession, subversion, terrorism, and collusion with foreign forces to endanger national security with a penalty. perpetual chain maximum for all four.
Since the enactment of the law, the city’s pro-democracy camp has been virtually wiped out, with prominent figures in prison or in exile abroad. A number of civilian groups have disbanded, and more recently, several universities have removed statues promoting democracy or commemorating the Tiananmen Square massacre during the night, raising concerns about campuses’ freedoms.
The Hong Kong government has repeatedly denied criticism that the law has stifled liberties, saying it has restored order to the city after the 2019 protest movement.
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