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Hong Kong Police Booth News and Staff Arrest

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Hong Kong Police Booth News and Staff Arrest

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HONG KONG (Reuters) – Hong Kong police on Wednesday arrested six current and former senior executives of an outspoken pro-democracy news website in a morning raid, in further government crackdown against the city’s once vibrant independent press.

The six men were arrested on suspicion of conspiring to publish seditious material, according to a police statement, which did not specify the media. But Stand News, a seven-year-old online publication, posted video footage to Facebook showing police officers at the gates of one of its deputy editors, Ronson Chan, around 6 a.m. It was not immediately clear if he had been arrested.

More than 200 officers entered the publication’s headquarters in Hong Kong and carried out a search, police said.

Patrick Lam, interim editor of Stand News, was escorted by officers. Denise Ho, a popular local singer who had served on the news site’s board of directors, was also arrested, according to a post on her Facebook page.

Hong Kong officials have targeted criticism from civil society, including the media, since the Chinese Communist Party imposed a national security law on the city in June 2020 to quell months of fierce pro-Hong Kong protests. the democracy.

Earlier this year, Apple Daily, perhaps the city’s best-known pro-democracy newspaper, was forced to shut down after several raids on its newsroom and the arrests of several editors and its founder , Jimmy Lai.

On Tuesday, Mr. Lai was indicted on a new newspaper-related sedition charge, along with six other former senior officials. Mr Lai, one of Hong Kong’s most prominent opposition voices, had already been sentenced to 20 months in prison for his support of the pro-democracy movement, and he faces life in prison for others charges.

Officials have sent warning letters to foreign news outlets over coverage they don’t like, and several foreign journalists have been denied visas to work in the former British colony. The government has also announced its intention to enact a law against fake news.

After the shutdown of Apple Daily, Stand News has become one of the city’s last openly pro-democracy media outlets, and officials have made it clear that it could be the next target.

Hong Kong Security Secretary Chris Tang earlier this month accused the news site of “biased, slanderous and demonizing” information about conditions in a city jail. Lau Siu-Kai, a Beijing adviser, was even more blunt, telling Chinese state media that the “survival room” for opposition news outlets was shrinking.

“Stand News will end,” he said.

Mr Chan, the editor-in-chief of Stand News whose home was apparently raided on Wednesday, also heads the Hong Kong Journalists Association, a professional organization of around 500 local journalists that has come under scrutiny. .

Mr. Tang, the security secretary, accused the association in September of “infiltrating” campuses and recruiting lay student journalists; he also suggested that he had received foreign funding. The security law criminalizes collusion with foreign forces.

Mr. Chan remained defiant after these accusations. In a September interview with the Hong Kong public broadcaster – which itself has come under heavy official pressure – he denied any breach of security law.

“We are aware of what the Hong Kong Journalists Association means for the media industry and for Hong Kong society, so we will not easily dissolve ourselves,” he said. “We will do our best to discharge our duty until the last moment.”

Hong Kong officials have denied any crackdown on press freedom. In an appearance at the Hong Kong Foreign Correspondents’ Club in September, Regina Ip, a pro-Beijing lawmaker, said Stand News was proof that free speech was intact.

“Freedom of speech is still very much alive,” she said. “Hong Kong Stand News, all these websites are still working as usual.”

Joy Dong contributed research.

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