Hong Kong squashes last pro-democracy press outlet with police raids and arrests

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The last prominent pro-democracy publication in Hong Kong has closed after becoming the target for police raids and having staff members arrested this week. Stand News had its assets frozen and its office raided before it released a statement confirming that its website and social media were no longer being updated and would be taken down.

It also said all of its employees had been dismissed. This further closure of free press comes after another pro-democracy paper, The Apple Daily, was shut down and its publisher arrested. Jimmy Lai, 73, is a strong critic of Beijing and was sentenced in April 2021 to 14 months in prison, reports Sky News.

The charge brought against the senior staff members of Stand News is one of conspiracy to publish a seditious publication. These arrests then gave police reason to raid the newspaper’s office. They have not confirmed which staff members they have in custody but local media has said those arrested were four former members of the Stand News board – included pop singer Denise Ho – as well as a former chief editor and the acting chief editor.

The police came en masse to the offices with more than 200 people involved in the searches. A new national security law brought in last year gave them the ability to seize any journalistic materials they saw fit. Hong Kong, a former British colony, returned to Chinese rule in 1997 with the promise that a wide range of individual rights would be protected. But authorities have cracked down on dissent, raising concerns about press freedoms and human rights.

Officials defended the Hong Kong crackdown.

Li Kwai-wah, senior superintendent of the police National Security Department, said to Sky News: “We are not targeting reporters, we are not targeting the media, we just targeted national security offences.

“If you only report, I don’t think this is a problem.”

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Written by

Claire Gordon