Stand News, one of Hong Kong’s last pro-democracy news organizations, is closing down following a police raid of the organization and the arrest of its senior employees.
Hong Kong police has detained seven people, including current and former employees, for “conspiracy to publish seditious publications”, the police said.
“Because of the situation, Stand News is ceasing operations immediately,” the organisation said in a Facebook post.
The raid at the office of the publication was conducted by a police force comprising of more than 200 police officers.
They were authorised to “search and seize relevant journalistic materials”, Hong Kong police said in a statement about the raid.
No updates from now on would be made to its website, Stand News said in a post on Facebook, in which it added that it would also be removing its social media content “within a day”.
“This morning, the police arrested a number of senior and former senior staff of the company, [and] took many people away to assist in the investigation,” the statement reads.
It goes on to say that laptops and papers were confiscated from its office and that it will cooperate with the police investigation.
Three men and four women were arrested, with ages ranging from 34 to 73.
Chung Pui-kuen and Patrick Lam, former and acting chief editors of Stand News, are among them, as is Denise Ho, a former board member and pop diva turned democracy hero.
Margaret Ng, Christine Fang, and Chow Tat-chi, all members of the board, were also arrested. The identity of the seventh person taken into custody has yet to be revealed.
During a press conference on Wednesday afternoon, Chief Secretary of Police John Lee stated that he backed the police raid against the news organization and that there would be “zero tolerance for behaviour that harms national security.”
“Making use of media work as a tool to pursue their political purpose or other interests contravenes the law, particularly offences that endanger national security,” he said.
“They are the evil elements that damage press freedom.”
Dozens of police officers were seen outside the doorstep of deputy assignment director Ronson Chan early Wednesday morning, according to a video uploaded on Stand News’ Facebook page.
Chan was not placed under arrest, but he was brought into custody by police for interrogation.
Chan had held the annual dinner of the Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA), of which he is the chairman, the night before. He mentioned the shutdown of Apple Daily in a speech, adding that the episode had “shaken” Hong Kong.
He had concluded the speech the night before by saying that the city would “always need the truth and always need journalists… no matter how difficult the road ahead is, the [HKJA] will not fall down”.
Hundreds of police officers were also involved in the raid of the offices of the now-defunct Apple Daily earlier this year, a tabloid known for being a vociferous critic of Hong Kong and Chinese authorities.
The paper’s assets were blocked, executives were jailed, and the paper was shortly shut down.
With its demise, Stand News became one of the city’s few overtly pro-democracy periodicals. It was one of a few relatively young internet news outlets that rose to popularity during the pro-democracy rallies in 2019.
The arrests come a day after media mogul Jimmy Lai, the founder of Apple Daily, was charged with the same offence while serving a prison sentence for a slew of other offences.
(Adapted from TheGuardian.com)