DHARAMSALA, 29 Dec: The office of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy Stand News outlet has been raided by the police in Hong Kong as China uses national security law to tighten its grip on Hong Kong yet again.
The latest in a series of crackdowns on the media saw hundreds of Hong Kong national security police raid the office of the online pro-democracy media outlet Stand News on Wednesday that resulted in the arrest of six people allegedly for “seditious publications” offences, Reuters reported.
According to the report, Stand News, set up in 2014 as a non-profit, is the most prominent remaining pro-democracy publication in Hong Kong after a national security investigation led to the closure of jailed tycoon Jimmy Lai’s Apple Daily tabloid earlier this year in June.
Following the raid of its office and arrest of its senior staff, Stand News has said that it will “shut down”.
“Because of the situation, Stand News is now stopping operations,” the pro-democracy News outlet has said in a Facebook post.
“Acting editor in chief, Patrick Lam, has resigned and all Stand News employees are dismissed,” it added.
“The raid raises more concerns about press freedom in the former British colony, which returned to Chinese rule in 1997 with the promise that a wide range of individual rights would be protected,” the report added citing Citing media advocacy groups.
The police have said in a statement that they had a warrant authorising them to “seize relevant journalistic materials” and that “over 200 uniformed and plainclothes police officers have been deployed.”
Though the police declared that they had arrested three men and three women, aged 34-73, for “conspiracy to publish seditious publications” and stopped short of disclosing their names, media reports identified the six arrested as former Stand News board members: former democratic legislator Margaret Ng, pop singer Denise Ho, Chow Tat-chi and Christine Fang. Also arrested were former chief editor Chung Pui-kuen and acting chief editor Patrick Lam.
The report noted that though Ronson Chan, the Stand News deputy assignment editor and the head of the Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA) has not been arrested, police have confiscated his computer, mobile, tablet, press pass and bank records during an early morning search of his home.
The raid took place early on Wednesday morning and that the officers loaded about three dozen boxes of documents and other seized material onto a truck before leaving around mid-day. Following the raid, the office has been cordoned off for media, the report added.
National security law, the controversial legislation imposed on 30 June last year punishes anything Beijing considers secession, subversion, terrorism, or collusion with foreign forces with up to life in prison and the law still continues to draw heavy international criticism from world leaders and right groups alike.