Monday, September 26, 2022

Hong Kong police raid pro-democracy organization Stand News, arrest six

  • Police deploy 200 officers to raid Stand News
  • Six arrested in the case of “seditious publications”
  • Stand News is the most famous of the remaining pro-democracy publications.
  • Human rights groups condemn “open attack” on press freedom

HONG KONG, December 29. (Reuters) – Hundreds of Hong Kong National Security Police officers ransacked the offices of pro-democracy online publication Stand News on Wednesday and arrested six people, including senior officials, on suspicion of “seditious publishing” offenses.

Stand News, created in 2014 as a non-profit organization, is the most visible remaining pro-democracy in Hong Kong after a national security investigation led to the closure of the cult tabloid Apple Daily imprisoned tycoon Jimmy Lai earlier this year.

Reid also raised concerns about media freedom in a former British colony that returned to Chinese rule in 1997 with the promise of protecting a wide range of individual rights.

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The police said in a statement that it has a warrant to “search and seize relevant journalistic material.”

“More than 200 police officers in uniform and civilian clothes were involved,” the statement said.

In addition, police said they had arrested three men and three women between the ages of 34 and 73, without giving their names, for “conspiracy to publish seditious publications.”

Ronson Chan, deputy editor of Stand News and head of the Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA), was not among those arrested, but said police confiscated his computer, iPhone, iPad, press pass and bank documents during a morning search. residence.

“Stand News has always written news professionally,” he added. Other senior officials could not be reached for comment.

The Stand News office in an industrial building in the Kwun Tong working-class district was partially covered, many police officers scurried about in the lobby, and four vans were parked below.

It was noticed that the officers were loading into the truck about three dozen boxes with documents and other materials seized as material evidence.

Stephen Butler, coordinator of the Committee to Protect Journalists’ Asia program, said the police action was “an open attack on Hong Kong’s already undermined press freedom.”

The government’s security bureau did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The authorities have repeatedly stated that all prosecutions are based on evidence and have nothing to do with the profession of the arrested.

“SESSIONAL”

Incitement is not one of the crimes listed in Beijing’s sweeping national security law against the city in June 2020, which punishes terrorism, conspiracy with foreign forces, subversion, and secession with possible life imprisonment.

But recent court decisions have allowed the authorities to use the powers granted by the new legislation to enforce previously rarely applied colonial-era laws, including the Crimes Ordinance, which deals with incitement to insurrection.

Authorities say the security law restored order after the often violent pro-democracy unrest in 2019. Critics say the law is a tool to suppress dissent and put the global financial center on an authoritarian path.

“When a free press … is called seditious, it is a symbol of the speed with which this once great open international city has grown into more than a police state,” said Benedict Rogers, executive director of the Hong Kong advocacy group. See, the statement says.

In June, hundreds of police officers ransacked the Apple Daily building, arresting executives on suspicion of “foreign government collusion.” The newspaper subsequently closed after the police froze its assets.

On Tuesday, prosecutors filed an additional “seditious posting” charge against Lai and six other former Apple Daily employees.

Police did not disclose which Apple Daily or Stand News articles they deemed seditious.

“SPEECH CRIMES”

The Stand News charter states that it must be independent, autonomous and committed to protecting Hong Kong’s core values ​​such as “democracy, human rights, the rule of law and justice.”

Following the Apple Daily raid, Stand News said it would stop accepting donations from readers and removed comments from the platform to protect supporters, authors and editors, adding that “speech crimes” had come to Hong Kong.

A June statement said senior lawyer and former Democratic MP Margaret Ng, pop singer Denise Ho, and four others had resigned from the board, leaving two founding directors, Tony Choi and former editor-in-chief Chung Puy-kuen, to remain.

Local media reported that the six arrested on Wednesday included Ng, Ho, Chang, acting editor-in-chief Patrick Lam and former board members Chow Thatchi and Christine Fang.

HKJA said in a statement that it is “deeply concerned that the police have repeatedly arrested high-profile media representatives and ransacked the offices of news organizations that contain a large amount of journalistic material.”

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Additional reporting by James Pomfret, Joyce Zhou, Jesse Pang, Donnie Kwok, Claire Jim and Marius Zacharia. Written by Tony Munroe and Marius Zachariah Edited by Chris Reese and Michael Perry

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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