In the latest pro-China crackdown on Hong Kong independent media, police raided the headquarters of vocal pro-democracy website Stand News on Wednesday and arrested at least six, including current and former editors and board members.
“Police raided Stand News’ office earlier in the day after arresting the six, including popular singer and activist Denise Ho, a former board member, on charges of conspiracy to publish a seditious publication,” the Associated Press detailed of the raid which involved over 200 officers and the seizure of all suspected “subversive” and “seditious” journalistic materials under last year’s national security law.
Hours into the day the news website was no longer being updated, nor its active social media pages. Stand News’ HK$61 million in assets have been frozen and all employees dismissed.
It appears to be part of a new crackdown wave against opposition Honk Kong media, following the June 2021 shuttering of the Apple Daily newspaper in a similar massive police raid which saw its publisher Jimmy Lai and top editors arrested, as HK authorities continue forcing the public firmly in line with “pro-China” policies.
It’s now looking like the crackdown is likely to continue beyond Stand News. The AP writes further, “Early Wednesday, Stand News posted a video on Facebook of police officers at the home of a deputy editor, Ronson Chan.”
The report adds that “Chan, who is also chair of the Hong Kong Journalists Association, was taken away for questioning, the organization confirmed in a statement.” Later released, he described that all his credentials and press pass, including all electronic devises and even bank cards were seized.
— Galileo Cheng (@galileocheng) December 29, 2021
Hong Kong police claimed in a follow-up press conference that “we are not targeting reporters” while a media industry group protested the raid. Police described Stand News in particular as having “stirred up hatred or contempt for the government and judiciary,” the AP noted. HK police further had some friendly “advice” for all other media and journalists:
“We are not targeting reporters, we are not targeting the media, we just targeted national security offenses,” said Li Kwai-wah, senior superintendent of the police National Security Department. “If you only report, I don’t think this is a problem.”
He said at a news conference that those arrested had to account for their actions even if they had resigned from Stand News.
Asked what advice he had for the media, Li replied, “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.”
This comes even after the outlet ceased the publication of most op-eds and removed the subscription-only membership, citing the prior national security law. Those still being detained reportedly face up to two years in prison and a fine up to HK$5,000.
Pop star Denise Ho was among the Wednesday arrests of pro-democracy media voices…
Pop star and prominent Hong Kong pro-democracy activist Denise Ho was arrested Wednesday morning by national security police.
She was one of seven people accused by police of “conspiracy to publish seditious material.” https://t.co/vgQ0KIVTuD
— Lalo (@LaloDagach) December 29, 2021
Likely it’s only a matter of time for all remaining independent and opposition outlet voices before the police come knocking, as journalists struggle to figure out what exactly “don’t be biased” actually means in the minds of pro-mainland authorities.