Hong Kong: six Stand News journalists arrested, publications suspended
Under Beijing's security law police have detained journalists or former staff members of the territory's last independent media outlet. Computers and archive material were confiscated. Deputy editor Ronson Chan was also questioned and released. The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the attack.
Hong Kong (AsiaNews) - The Hong Kong authorities have again cracked down on independent media and journalists for "conspiring" to publish "seditious" material, according to the draconian security law imposed by Beijing in the territory.
In the past few hours, police have detained for questioning at least six people connected - or former collaborators - to the news website Stand News. More than 200 officers searched the newspaper's headquarters and stopped publication, "searching and seizing" on the instructions of the judiciary "journalistic material of some importance".
The people arrested, three men and three women, range in age from 34 to 73. They include the former and current editors of Stand News Chung Pui-kuen and Patrick Lam, and the pop-star and pro-democracy icon Denise Ho, a former contributor to the publication. Others arrested include Margaret Ng, Christine Fang and Chow Tat-chi.
The Facebook page released images of police officers knocking on the door of deputy editor Ronson Chan, who was interrogated and then released, while others took away computers and boxes containing archive material. "Due to the situation," reads a post, "Stand News has decided to immediately ceaseall publications".
The day before the raid, Deputy Director Chan hosted the annual dinner of the Hong Kong Journalists Association (Hkja), of which he is president, referring in his speech to the closure of the Apple Daily, an affair that had 'shaken' the whole of Hong Kong. He concluded by stressing that the city 'would always need the truth' and 'journalists [...] no matter how difficult the road ahead [the Hong Kong Journalists Association] will not fall'.
Earlier this year, hundreds of police raided the premises of the now defunct Apple Daily, a publication known to be a vocal critic of the Hong Kong and Chinese leadership. Its assets were frozen, executives were arrested and the paper was shut down, leaving only Stand News as a publication close to the Democrats' positions. In recent days, during a court hearing, judges have raised new charges of 'seditious publications' against Jimmy Lai and six other staff members of Apple Daily.
The Committee to Protect Journalists condemned the arrests. The committee's Asia programme coordinator Steven Butler spoke of an "open assault" on press freedom, which is already in "tatters" in Hong Kong, at a time when China is increasing "direct control over the former colony" by exploiting the Basic Law, under which 155 people have been arrested in just a few months and more than 200,000 tips have been given to the police.