Hong Kong police raid news outlet’s office after arresting six for conspiracy

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Current and former editors of Stand News, as well as four former board members, were arrested under a colonial-era ordinance, police said

Hong Kong police raid news outlet’s office after arresting six for conspiracy
Editor of Stand News Patrick Lam, center, is escorted by police officers into a van
Editor of Stand News Patrick Lam, center, is escorted by police officers into a van CREDIT: Vincent Yu/AP

Hong Kong police raided the office of an online news outlet on Wednesday after arresting six people for conspiracy to publish a seditious publication.

Those arrested were affiliated with Stand News, one of the most vocal pro-democracy news outlets in the city after the pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily ceased operations earlier this year.

More than 200 officers were taking part in the search, police said. They had a warrant to seize relevant journalistic materials under a national security law enacted last year.

The six were arrested early on Wednesday under a colonial-era crimes ordinance for conspiracy to publish a seditious publication, and searches of their residences were underway, police said.

A Hong Kong national security police officer and a worker carry boxes of evidence from the offices of Stand News
A Hong Kong national security police officer and a worker carry boxes of evidence from the offices of Stand News CREDIT: Daniel SUEN/AFP

According to the local South China Morning Post newspaper, police arrested one current and one former editor at Stand News, as well as four former board members including singer and activist Denise Ho and former lawmaker Margaret Ng.Advertisement

A Facebook post early Wednesday morning on Ho’s account confirmed that she was being arrested. A subsequent message posted on her behalf said she was okay and urged friends and supporters not to worry about her.

That post drew nearly 40,000 likes and 2,700 comments, mostly from supporters.

Police did not identify those who were arrested.

Early Wednesday, Stand News posted a video on Facebook of police officers at the home of a deputy editor, Ronson Chan, where they were investigating the alleged crime. Chan, who is also chair of the Hong Kong Journalists Association, was not arrested but was taken away for questioning, according to the South China Morning Post.

Deputy assignment editor Ronson Chan (C) of the online media outlet Stand News talks to members of the press after taken for questioning by the police in Hong Kong
Deputy assignment editor Ronson Chan (C) of the online media outlet Stand News talks to members of the press after taken for questioning by the police in Hong Kong CREDIT: Shutterstock

The arrests come as authorities crack down on dissent in the semi-autonomous Chinese city. Police charged former newspaper publisher Jimmy Lai with sedition on Tuesday. His Apple Daily newspaper shut down after its assets were frozen.

Stand News earlier this year said it would suspend subscriptions and remove most opinion pieces and columns from its website due to the national security law. Six board members had also resigned from the company.

The Hong Kong Journalists Association urged the city’s government to protect press freedom in accordance with Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, the Basic Law.

“The Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA) is deeply concerned that the police have repeatedly arrested senior members of the media and searched the offices of news organisations containing large quantities of journalistic materials within a year,” it said in a statement.

Police officers leave the pro-democracy media outlet Stand News building
Police officers leave the pro-democracy media outlet Stand News building CREDIT: Shutterstock

Benedict Rogers, co-founder and CEO of the non-governmental organisation Hong Kong Watch, said the arrests are “nothing short of an all-out assault on the freedom of the press in Hong Kong”.

“When a free press guaranteed by Hong Kong’s Basic Law is labelled ‘seditious,’ it is a symbol of the speed at which this once great, open, international city has descended into little more than a police state,” he said.

Wednesday’s arrests also followed the removal of sculptures and other artwork from university campuses last week. The works supported democracy and memorialised the victims of China’s crackdown on democracy protesters at Beijing’s Tiananmen Square in 1989.

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