Stand News Stands Down

FOR MONTHS, IT has seemed a matter of when not if Stand News, one of the last remaining openly pro-democracy media outlets in Hong Kong, got closed down. The when is now, following police raids, the arrest of current and former top editors and the freezing of its assets.

Six from Stand News were arrested on December 29 to face charges of ‘conspiracy to publish seditious publications’. They include the former and acting chief editors of Stand News, Chung Pui-kuen and Patrick Lam, and board members singer and activist Denise Ho and former Legco member Margaret Ng.

Ronson Chan,  Stand’s deputy assignment editor and also chair of the Hong Kong Journalists Association, was detained for questioning.

Six months ago, Jimmy Lai’s Apple Daily newspaper shut down following similar action by authorities. On December 28, Lai, who is already in prison following convictions on multiple charges in connection with his support of the 2019 pro-democracy demonstrations, and six former senior employees of Apple Daily were charged with seditious publication.

As if it needed chilling any further given the crackdown on dissent in the city, the climate for independent journalism in Hong Kong and any criticism of government locally or in Beijing has become numbing.

Steven Butler, Asia programme coordinator of the Committee to Protect Journalists, said the Stand News arrests were ‘an open assault on Hong Kong’s already tattered press freedom’.

Update: Another independent outlet, Citizen News, has also announced it has shut down, with its chief writer, Chris Yeung, saying it could no longer gauge where the legal boundaries lay.

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