Hong Kong police raided the headquarters of Stand News, a pro-democracy online newspaper, and arrested six staff on Wednesday for “conspiracy to publish seditious publications.”
Stand News was established in 2014. It is the most prominent anti-Beijing voice in Hong Kong since the closure of Apple Daily, which was a larger newspaper. Its founder, Jimmy Lai, was sentenced to thirteen months in prison after being convicted of participating in an anniversary vigil marking the Tiananmen massacre on June 4, 1989.
Hong Kong police issued a press release saying two hundred officers participated in the raid, which was carried out with a warrant. It also enabled them to seize relevant documents and photographs posted on social networks police carrying computers and documents out of the building.
Six newspaper staff, three men and three women, were arrested in the raid. The six staff members have not been named, but the group is known to include Patrick Lam, the newspaper’s editor, and Denise Ho, singer-songwriter and human rights activist from Hong Kong. Social media posts listed the other four as former editor Chung Pui-kuen and staff members Margaret Ng, Christine Fang and TC Chow.
The raid raises new doubts about media freedom in Hong Kong, which suffered a sharp reduction in dissenting voices following the passage of a controversial national security law in 2020. The law, which effectively criminalized protests against the Chinese government, has been described as the end of the Special Administrative Region’s “One Country, Two Systems” arrangement after it returned to Chinese control in 1997.
At the time, Beijing promised that individual rights to the territory, including freedom of the press, would continue to be respected. However, in the aftermath of the 2019-2020 protest movement against Chinese authority in Hong Kong, Beijing imposed tighter controls on the region, using restrictions put in place to stop the spread of the coronavirus as a justification for shutting down events. pro-democracy audiences.
In separate incidents, two universities have removed memorials to the Tiananmen Square massacre last week, fearing they may be politically targeted for leaving them in place.
Although the National Security Law has been used to target more than a hundred other dissidents, including Lai, the Seditious Publications Law under which the Stand News reporters were indicted is a holdover from the British era Hong Kong. During this period, newspapers were often prevented from advocating the unification of the territory with China.
Trevor Filseth is a current affairs and foreign affairs writer for the National interest.