China continues to keep pace with Hong Kong and the oppositions. Thursday, December 30, two of those arrested the day before during the police operation against the pro-democracy information site Stand News were charged, as well as their media, with “Conspiracy to carry out a seditious publication”.
The National Security Police, who issued a statement, did not specify their identity, only reporting that they were “Two men aged 34 and 52”. The other five people arrested on Wednesday “Remain detained for further investigation”, police said.
Online media Stand News, founded in 2014 and very active during the major anti-government protests in Hong Kong in 2019, announced on Wednesday that it was closing and laying off all its employees, with its assets now frozen by the authorities. The news site, which was raided the same day by more than 200 police officers, is accused of posting articles and blog posts “Seditious” in the form of“Harmful allegations without any factual basis” between July 2020 and November 2021.
This police operation comes as the international community worries about the relentless recovery in hand in Hong Kong since the 2019 pro-democracy protests.
“Journalism is not sedition, reacted in particular the American Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, Wednesday. By silencing independent media, China and local authorities are undermining Hong Kong’s credibility and viability. Authorities who are confident in themselves and not afraid of the truth welcome the free press. We call on China and the Hong Kong authorities to (…) release journalists and media officials who have been wrongfully detained and charged ”, he added.
European Union diplomacy spokesman Peter Stano, for his part, denounced a “Further deterioration of press freedom” in Hong Kong.
China said criticism from Western countries on Thursday was “Irresponsible.”
Stand News is the second Hong Kong media silenced by the authorities. In June, the pro-democracy journal Apple Daily had closed following the freezing of its assets and the arrest of its executives.
The former British colony has long been considered, due to its great autonomy from Beijing, as an Asian bastion of press freedom and is still home to the regional headquarters of major international media. But the climate for the press has deteriorated considerably since the popular mobilization of 2019. A draconian national security law, imposed by Beijing and entered into force in 2020, has become the main instrument of repression against dissent.
Since then, Hong Kong has steadily plummeted in the world press freedom ranking published each year by Reporters Without Borders, dropping from 18e place in 2002 at the 80e This year.
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Hong Kong: two members of the pro-democracy media “Stand News” charged with “sedition”