Hong Kong’s Citizen News to shut down after pro-democracy media targeted
This follows Stand News’s closure a few days ago. Under the national security law, the boundaries between what is lawful and what is not lawful for the press no longer exist. The law has already affected the Apple Daily, RTHK, DB TV and several foreign journalists.
Hong Kong (AsiaNews) – A second independent newspaper is closing in less than a week. Citizen News has announced that tomorrow it will be its last day of publication.
As the online newspaper noted, the decision was affected by the closure of another pro-democracy newspaper, Stand News, on 29 December after the arrest of seven of its staff members on national security grounds.
This morning, Chris Yeung, chief writer at Citizen News, said that the conditions for reporting the news the paper wants to cover no longer exist, since the legal boundaries of what is lawful and was is not can no longer be taken for granted.
The paper announced that it would be closing to protect its staff (40 people who will lose their job) following “drastic changes in society and the worsening of the media environment.”
This is an indirect reference to the draconian national security law imposed in 2020 by Beijing, which drastically curtailed freedom in the former British colony.
Asked by the Hong Kong Free Press (HKFP) about what was happening, the Security Bureau gave the usual answer: “Freedom of speech and freedom of the press are protected”, but they “are not absolute, and can be restricted for reasons including protection of national security”.
In a statement released on Monday, the Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA said it was “heartbroken”, noting that the shutting down of media outlets will damage Hong Kong’s international reputation.
Hong Kong’s Foreign Correspondents’ Club had already slammed Carrie Lam’s government for the action against Stand News, which it deemed “a further blow to press freedom in Hong Kong”.
The best-known case, however, is that of Apple Daily, an independent newspaper founded by Catholic publishing magnate Jimmy Lai.
The pro-democracy newspaper closed on 24 June 2021 after it was accused of undermining national security. Several of its administrators and journalists were arrested, and its assets (HK$ 18 million, US$ 2.3 million) were frozen.
In early November, the DB TV channel announced its intention to stop its operations in Hong Kong, following the arrest of one of its co-founders, Frankie Fung, charged with subversion. He was one of 47 people involved in last year’s primary elections to choose pro-democracy candidates ahead of the Legislative Council election.
Initium, another independent publication, chose to move its headquarters to Singapore in August 2021.
Like other media, Radio Television Hong Kong (RTHK), the local public broadcasting service, lost its editorial autonomy and is now run by a former government official.
Individual journalists have not been spared. In mid-November, Sue-Lin Wong, correspondent for The Economist, was expelled after her visa was not renewed without any explanation. Last year Aaron Mc Nicholas of HKFP and Chris Buckley of the New York Times received the same treatment.
Steve Vines, a well-known former journalist and presenter at RTHK, fled to Great Britain to escape the “white terror” that is sweeping over the city, a term that describes the effect of the security law on media and the population.