Police in the decreasingly autonomous Chinese city of Hong Kong raided the office of Stand News and arrested six current and former editors of the publication on Wednesday.
The Associated Press reported more than 200 police officers participated in the raid on the Stand News office on charges the newspaper was promoting sedition. Following the raid and arrests, Stand News issued a statement that its website and social media are no longer being updated and will be removed. The news publication also said all employees have been dismissed.
Stand News had operated since 2014 and was known for its pro-democracy editorial stance and support for increased autonomy for Hong Kong. The publication had been one of the few remaining news sources to report critical on Chinese government actions.
News outlets in Hong Kong have been under increased pressure from Hong Kong authorities after China passed new so-called “national security laws” that criminalized broadly defined acts of “sedition,” “subversion,” “secession” and “terrorism.”
The shuttering of Stand News comes six months after another pro-democracy publication, the Apple Daily, was forced to close amid a slew of police raids, arrests and charges that the Apple Daily was colluding with foreign elements to endanger national security. Apple Daily founder Jimmy Lai had already been arrested and charged with collusion with foreign elements in 2020. Lai, who is already jailed, was also charged with sedition on Tuesday.
The New York Times reported earlier this month that Hong Kong security secretary Chris Tang had accused Stand News of “biased, smearing and demonizing” reporting for its coverage of conditions at a prison.
In November, Lau Siu-kai — the vice-president of the Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macao Studies and an advisor to the Beijing government —told China’s state-run Global Times that “with the implementation of the national security law for Hong Kong, the Hong Kong government has been stepping up efforts in managing the media and cracking down on fake news.”
Lau said “the survival room” for “anti-government media outlets” like Stand News would continue to shrink.
Following Wednesday’s raid and arrests against Stand News, Hong Kong Police superintendent for National Security Li Kwai-wah claimed, “We are not targeting reporters, we are not targeting the media, we just targeted national security offenses.”
Li further advised other members of Hong Kong’s media on Wednesday, “Don’t be biased. You know well how to report, how to be a responsible reporter, how to make a non-biased report to your readers. That’s all I can give you.”
Stand News had previously agreed to remove most opinion pieces and columns from its website, out of concern for Hong Kong’s new national security legislation.
Benedict Rogers, co-founder and CEO of the non-governmental organization Hong Kong Watch, criticized Wednesday’s raid and arrests.
“When a free press guaranteed by Hong Kong’s Basic Law is labeled ‘seditious,’ it is a symbol of the speed at which this once great, open, international city has descended into little more than a police state,” Rogers said.
The Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA) also said it is “deeply concerned that the police have repeatedly arrested senior members of the media and searched the offices of news organizations containing large quantities of journalistic materials within a year.”