Stand DOWN: Police Close Hong Kong News Outlet After Raid
Austin Taylor covers the recent violence in Hong Kong where local news outlet, Stand News, has been closed and editors arrested after police conducted a raid. What does mean for Hong Kong in the coming years and what should we be keeping an eye on?
Stand News, a pro-democracy news outlet in Hong Kong, has closed following a police raid and acting News editor-in-chief, Patrick Lam, was charged with allegedly conspiring to publish seditious material. The outlet, which began operating in 2014, and mostly focused on social and political affairs in Hong Kong, announced its closure and removed all of its online content last week, with authorities freezing assets worth HK$61 million (about £5 million). The closure comes amidst increasing encroachment upon press freedoms in Hong Kong, following the ratification of the deeply authoritarian National Security Law in June 2020, and a recent ‘patriots-only’ parliamentary election in December.
Two hundred police officers were deployed to raid Stand News on the 29th December
Two hundred police officers were deployed to raid the offices of Stand News on 29th December. At least four of its staff were taken in for questioning by the Hong Kong Police Force, whilst seven others linked with the outlet were arrested on suspicion of breaking the colonial-era Crimes Ordinance (a 1971 anti-sedition law, which had not been used for decades prior to this). Steve Li, the senior superintendent at the Hong Kong Police Force, said that Stand News had published “seditious materials” with intent to “cause hatred towards the government, the judiciary and cause discontent among the public.“
The outlet had become prominent for its on-the-ground, often live-streamed, coverage of the 2019 pro-democracy protests. Perhaps most prominent was the live-streaming of triad gangsters attacking protestors at Yuen Long MTR station, during which the Stand News reporter, Gwyneth Ho, was herself assaulted.
Apple Daily, another pro-democracy newspaper, was closed following two police raids and the arrest of its founder last year
This all comes in the wake of the similar raid and closure of Apple Daily -once one of the most popular Chinese-language newspapers in Hong Kong and the recipient of a Hong Kong Human Rights Press Award. Apple Daily was a pro-democracy newspaper, which ran from 1995 to the Summer of 2021. It closed following two police raids on its headquarters and the arrest of its executives as well as its tycoon founder, Jimmy Lai, under the national security law. The raids and arrests met international condemnation, with former Hong Kong governor, Chris Patten, describing the episode as “the most outrageous attack on Hong Kong’s remaining freedom of the press in living memory.”
The closure of Stand News is symptomatic of the atmosphere of censorship -and self-censorship- in post-2019 Hong Kong
The closure of Stand News is symptomatic of the atmosphere of censorship — and self-censorship — in post-2019 Hong Kong. Indeed, hot on the heels of the Stand News closure was that of Citizen News. Citizen News was another online pro-democracy news outlet that voluntarily opted to close because, as its Chief Writer Chris Yeung said, it was unclear whether its articles in “the past few years” had broken the law or not.
Once a beacon of civil liberties and the rule of law in Asia, the idea of Hong Kong retaining its press freedoms or much of its unique way of life at all (as guaranteed in its de facto constitution -the Hong Kong Basic Law) is becoming an increasingly abstract one under the CCP.
Editor: Ryan Gerrett