The Independent News website announced on its Facebook page that it had suspended its operations and laid off all employees with immediate effect. The report said that Stand News would immediately stop updating its website and social media accounts and that they would be removed in a few days.
At a news conference on Wednesday afternoon, Steve Lee Kuai-wa, senior superintendent of the Hong Kong Police Department of National Security, said he was involved in several “treasonous” articles published by the store between July 2020 and November 2021.
Li said police raided the news agency’s office in the city’s Kuon Dong area and froze assets worth about 61 million Hong Kong dollars ($ 7.8 million) from the company.
Earlier on Wednesday, according to a government report, about 200 police officers were involved in a search of a newsroom where they seized newspaper material.
Among those arrested were Ho and Margaret Eng, a former pro-democracy lawyer and key barrister – both former members of the news release’s board of directors. According to the Hong Kong Journalist Association (HKJA), former Stand News editor-in-chief Chung Pui-quen and acting editor-in-chief Patrick Lam were also arrested.
The initial government announcement on Wednesday was that the “conspiracy to publish treasonous publications” – allegations arising from colonial-era criminal law – were police national security officers involved in the Stand News case.
Turbulent year for journalists
The city’s once vibrant media landscape has dried up since Beijing imposed a major national security law on the city in 2020, leading to the closure of Apple Daily, a pro – democracy publication that was harshly publicized earlier this year.
The HKJA said in a statement on Wednesday that “the Hong Kong Journalists’ Association is deeply concerned about the recent arrests of senior members of the media by the police and the raids on the offices of news organizations with large quantities of newspaper material within a year.” The government has been “protecting press freedom under the basic law” of the city’s current constitution since 1997.
The association said Ronson San Ron-Singh, an assistant editor of the Stand News and leader of the HKJA, was “taken away by the police.”
Earlier on Wednesday morning, Stand News released a video of police arriving at Chan’s home for a search. Chan later told local media in Hong Kong that he had not been arrested.
Ho, a Cantonese pop star and popular pro-democracy activist, was arrested at his home around 6 a.m. Wednesday after his aide asked him not to be named.
Her aide told CNN Business that police spent more than two hours at the singer’s home, seizing phones and computers and her ID card and passport.
At the Stand News office on Wednesday, police collected about 30 boxes of “evidence,” a local police spokesman told CNN Business.
Hong Kong officials backed Wednesday’s arrests to prevent the “bad apples” from misrepresenting themselves in the media.
“Anyone who tries to use the media as a tool for their political purpose or other interests is against the law, especially crimes that endanger national security,” Hong Kong Secretary-General John Lee told reporters when asked about the unrelated arrests. Press event.
“Professional media workers need to recognize that these are evil elements that are damaging the freedom of the press.
‘Stocks are high’
Despite criticism from Hong Kong authorities and the Chinese state media, the HKJA continues to speak out in defense of press freedom.
The latest police action comes just hours after HKJA hosted its annual dinner on Tuesday, which was delayed by more than a year due to corona virus restrictions.
“We know stocks are high, but press freedom was the backbone of Hong Kong’s success,” Chan said in a speech at the dinner. “Hong Kong will always need truth and journalists. No matter how difficult the path forward, the association will try not to fail.”
Even after the enactment of the National Security Act, it was considered one of the city’s most outspoken shops, often issuing reports of serious attacks.
The trial of Stand News comes a day after Apple Daily founder Jimmy Loy was jailed on charges of plotting to print and distribute treasonous publications, and officials are now blaming Stand News subsidiaries.
A ‘shock wave’ through Hong Kong
Speaking at HKJA’s annual dinner on Tuesday, Chan described the arrest of Lai and his colleagues and the subsequent closure of the Apple Daily as a “shock wave across Hong Kong”. Day. “
Chan also acknowledged the increasing difficulty in filling positions on its board of directors due to concerns about HKJA’s personal security and career opportunities.
“In fact, the position of vice president is still vacant and will remain so until November. This shows that many colleagues have realized that becoming an HKJA executive member can endanger one’s life,” Chan said.
In a statement on Wednesday, the Foreign Correspondents Club in Hong Kong said it was “deeply concerned” about the arrests in connection with the stand – up news.
“These measures are a further blow to press freedom in Hong Kong and will continue to cool the city’s media environment following a difficult year for the city’s news organizations, it said.
The National Security Act, which was drafted in Beijing and promulgated in Hong Kong last year, threatens national security in collaboration with secession, sabotage, terrorism and foreign forces – with a maximum of four life sentences.
Since the law was passed, the city’s pro-democracy camp has been virtually destroyed, and key figures have been imprisoned or deported. A series of civilian groups were disbanded, and more recently, several universities have removed statues promoting democracy or commemorating the Tiananmen Square massacre, raising concerns about freedom on campus.
The Hong Kong government has repeatedly denied criticisms that the law has curtailed independence, claiming that order has been restored in the city after the 2019 protests.