On Tuesday, the United States joined with 20 other nations to condemn Chinese authorities for the “near-complete disappearance of local independent media outlets in Hong Kong.”
In a joint statement, the U.S. State Department said that since enacting its new national security laws over Hong Kong in June 2020, Chinese authorities have gone on to target and suppress independent media in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. The U.S. joined with the other countries of the Media Freedom Coalition — Australia, Austria, Canada, Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Slovakia, Slovenia, Switzerland and the United Kingdom — to condemn China’s national security laws.
News outlets in Hong Kong have been under increased pressure from Hong Kong authorities after China implemented so-called “national security laws” that criminalized broadly defined acts of “sedition,” “subversion,” “secession” and “terrorism.”
The joint statement by the 21 Media Freedom Coalition countries pointed to police raids on Hong Kong’s Stand News offices and the arrests of Stand News staff in December.
Earlier in December, Hong Kong security secretary Chris Tang had accused Stand News of “biased, smearing and demonizing” reporting for its coverage of conditions at a prison.
More than 200 police officers participated in the raid on the Stand News offices.
The joint statement also noted the self-closure of Citizen News, a decision the countries said stemmed from “concerns over the safety of its staff.”
Announcing its decision to shut down in January, Citizen News said, “Sadly, we can no longer strive to turn our beliefs into reality without fear because of the sea change in the society over the past two years and the deteriorating media environment.”
The closures of Stand News and Citizen News came just months after Hong Kong’s 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 has also been arrested and charged with collusion with foreign elements and sedition.
The Tuesday joint statement said China “has eroded the protected rights and freedoms set out in the Basic Law and undermines China’s obligations under the Sino-British Joint Declaration.”
“A stable and prosperous Hong Kong in which human rights and fundamental freedoms are protected should be in everybody’s interest,” the statement concludes. “We urge Hong Kong and mainland Chinese authorities to respect freedom of the press and freedom of speech in Hong Kong, in line with the Basic Law and China’s obligations under the Sino-British Joint Declaration.”