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Hong Kong News Outlet Forced To Close Following Police Raid, Staff Arrests

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Hong Kong pro-democracy news outlet Stand News was forced to shut down on Wednesday following a police raid and the arrest of several staff members on suspicion of “seditious publication” offenses. The move comes amid a crackdown on press freedoms by communist Chinese authorities.

According to Hong Kong Free Press, “[O]ver 200 national security police officers were deployed to raid the Kwun Tong offices of the non-profit online outlet in the early hours of Wednesday,” with authorities arresting seven people linked to the outlet “on suspicion of breaching the colonial-era Crimes Ordinance by conspiring to publish seditious publications.” At least four current staff members were also taken into custody for further questioning.

The arrests included Stand News’s former editor-in-chief Chung Pui-kuen and former acting chief editor Patrick Lam, who were “officially charged with allegedly conspiring to publish seditious publications” by a city court on Thursday. Both Pui-kuen and Lam have also been denied bail, with acting chief magistrate Peter Law saying that “he was not satisfied that there were sufficient grounds for believing that they would not continue to commit acts endangering national security if bail was extended.”

While speaking at a Wednesday press conference on the matter, senior superintendent of the police national security department Steve Li claimed that the arrested individuals held “important roles in the company’s editorial direction and strategy” and accused Stand News of publishing “seditious materials” aimed at fostering hatred toward the communist government.

“These cases have been to court. Did we see this happening? Is there evidence? These were examples of sedition,” Li said. “There is strong evidence showing that this online media and other so-called ‘international front’ [activists] conspired to incite hatred towards the government, and endangered national security through its platform.”

Li also denied accusations that the government is working to cripple press freedoms, claiming that police are “not targeting the reporter, the media, just the national security offences.”

The accelerated crackdown on pro-democracy outlets in Hong Kong has since sparked outrage among the world community, with Dan Kubiske, the co-chair of the Society of Professional Journalists’ International Community, calling the arrests an attack “on press freedom under the guise of national security.”

“SPJ stands with our brave colleagues in Hong Kong who continue to believe in the right of news organizations to be free from government control,” Kubiske in a statement. “We call on the Hong Kong government to abide by the 1997 treaty and end its persecution of journalists who do what free and independent journalists are supposed to do – hold public figures to account, ask questions and provide their consumers with truthful information.”