After a raid by security forces and the arrest of senior staff, the online news portal Stand News declared one of the last pro-democratic media companies in Hong Kong. “Stand News now ceases operations, “the portal said on Wednesday in a statement published on Facebook, that all employees had been fired. Previously, security forces had searched the offices, frozen assets and arrested seven activists. They were accused of” inflammatory publications “. More than According to the police, 200 uniformed and civilian police officers were on duty, saying that “relevant journalistic material” had been confiscated on the basis of a search warrant.
According to media reports, those arrested are former board members of Stand News, including former Democratic MP Margaret Ng and pop singer Denise Ho. Former editor-in-chief Chung Pui Kuen and deputy editor-in-chief Patrick Lam were also arrested. Stand News “I have published messages and comments inciting hatred against the authorities,” said Steve Li, the head of the police’s national security department. The police had confiscated assets worth the equivalent of around seven million euros, as well as computers, telephones and journalistic material. Further arrests are not excluded. “We don’t target reporters. We target national security violations,” Li said.
The raid gives further cause for concern about dwindling rights and freedoms in the Chinese Special Administrative Region. The 2020 by the government in Beijing enacted National Security Act is seen as a massive cut in the autonomy of the former British crown colony, which it was promised for at least 50 years when it was handed over to China in 1997 according to the principle of “one country – two systems”. Western states accuse China of undermining civil rights in Hong Kong and wanting to silence the democracy movement. Steven Butler, Asia coordinator of the Committee for the Protection of Journalists, described the police action as an “open attack on the already shattered freedom of the press in Hong Kong”.
Stand News, which was founded as a non-profit organization in 2014, was most recently the best-known remaining pro-democracy publication in Hong Kong. Previously, the tabloid was among other things in action against the democracy movement Apple Daily of the jailed tycoon Jimmy Lai has been closed. The office of Stand News A Reuters reporter reported that an industrial building in the working-class district of Kwun Tong had been cordoned off by dozens of police officers. Stand News released a video showing police arrive at the residence of Vice Editor-in-Chief and Chairman of the Hong Kong Journalists’ Association, Ronson Chan. “The charge was a conspiracy to publish inflammatory publications. This is the arrest warrant,” said a police officer on the video. Incitement is not a crime under the Comprehensive National Security Act. Recent court rulings, however, have given authorities the opportunity to use the powers conferred by the new law to apply previously underutilized colonial regulations that cover sedition.
The federal government condemns the arrests Stand News as a hard blow to the democracy movement in the Chinese Special Administrative Region. “From our point of view, the events illustrate anew that there is a steady erosion of pluralism, freedom of opinion and freedom of the press in Hong Kong – especially since this national security law came into force,” said a spokeswoman for the Foreign Office in Berlin on Wednesday.