HONG KONG — Hundreds of Hong Kong cops arrested six present or former senior workers members of an outspoken pro-democracy information web site and raided the positioning’s headquarters on Wednesday, in one more crackdown by the federal government on the town’s once-vibrant impartial press.
The six had been arrested on suspicion of conspiring to publish seditious materials, in accordance to an announcement from the police, which didn’t specify the information outlet. But Stand News, a seven-year-old on-line publication, posted transient video footage on Facebook exhibiting cops on the doorways of certainly one of its deputy editors, Ronson Chan, about 6 a.m. Officers then requested Mr. Chan to cease filming, claiming he was interfering with their work.
More than 200 officers entered the publication’s headquarters in Hong Kong and performed a search, the police stated. Footage and images reviewed by The New York Times confirmed officers stringing orange tape throughout a hallway contained in the workplace constructing, and apparently wheeling suitcases and bins containing computer systems and different supplies out of the newsroom. A photograph confirmed a minimum of two dozen massive blue plastic bins stacked within the constructing’s foyer.
Separate footage confirmed Patrick Lam, the performing editor in chief of Stand News, being escorted away from his residence in handcuffs. A girl requested Mr. Lam if he had something to say, to which each he and an officer replied, “Look online.”
Denise Ho, a preferred native singer who had served on the board of the information web site, was additionally arrested, in accordance to a publish on her Facebook web page.
Hong Kong officers have focused critics throughout civil society, together with within the information media, because the Chinese Communist Party imposed a nationwide safety legislation on the town in June 2020 to quell months of fierce pro-democracy protests in 2019.
Earlier this 12 months, Apple Daily, maybe the town’s best-known pro-democracy newspaper, was forced to close after a number of police raids of its newsroom and the arrests of a number of prime editors and its founder, Jimmy Lai.
On Tuesday, Mr. Lai was charged with a new accusation of sedition associated to the newspaper, as had been six different former senior staff. Mr. Lai, certainly one of Hong Kong’s most outstanding opposition voices, had already been sentenced to 20 months in prison in relation to his assist of the pro-democracy motion, and he faces up to life in jail on different prices.
Officials have despatched warning letters to overseas information shops about protection they dislike, and several other overseas journalists have been denied visas to work within the former British colony. The authorities has additionally introduced plans to enact a legislation in opposition to so-called fake news.
After Apple Daily folded, Stand News grew to become one of many metropolis’s final brazenly pro-democracy shops, and officers made clear that it might be focused subsequent.
During the 2019 protests, Stand News reporters had documented episodes together with a mob attack on pro-democracy protesters in a subway station; one reporter, Gwyneth Ho, was herself attacked. (Ms. Ho, who later resigned to enter politics, is now in jail.) In June this 12 months, Stand News stated it had removed on-line commentaries revealed in May or earlier, noting that Hong Kong was starting to goal “speech crimes.”
Hong Kong’s safety secretary, Chris Tang, earlier this month accused the information web site of “biased, smearing and demonizing” stories about circumstances at a jail within the metropolis. Lau Siu-Kai, an adviser to Beijing, was much more blunt, telling Chinese state media that “the survival room” for opposition information shops was shrinking.
“Stand News will come into an end,” Mr. Lau said.
It was not instantly clear whether or not the outlet would face prices underneath the nationwide safety legislation, which might deliver up to life imprisonment. The sedition cost doesn’t fall underneath the safety legislation however reasonably stems from a colonial-era ordinance. But the arrests had been carried out by the nationwide safety police, and the warrant for the newsroom raid was issued underneath the safety legislation, the police stated.
Legal consultants stated the arrests confirmed that the authorities had been blurring the strains between the safety legislation and different prison legal guidelines in Hong Kong, basically permitting the safety legislation’s extra sweeping provisions, corresponding to stricter bail circumstances, to be utilized in extra instances.
The police’s nationwide safety division may “expand its authority to cover all sorts of non-NSL cases,” Thomas Kellogg, government director of Georgetown University’s Center for Asian Law, wrote on Twitter, utilizing an acronym for the nationwide safety legislation.
Mr. Chan, the Stand News editor whose residence was searched on Wednesday, was not among the many six arrested. He was launched after being questioned and informed reporters that the police had seized his laptop computer, telephone and iPad, in addition to financial institution paperwork and his press accreditation.
“Stand News has always reported professionally,” Mr. Chan stated. “This is obvious for the whole world to see.”
Mr. Chan additionally leads the Hong Kong Journalists Association, a commerce group of about 500 native journalists that has come underneath scrutiny.
Mr. Tang, the safety secretary, accused the affiliation in September of “infiltrating” campuses and recruiting unprofessional pupil journalists; he additionally recommended that it had acquired overseas funding. The safety legislation criminalizes collusion with overseas forces.
“We’re aware of what the Hong Kong Journalists Association means to the media industry and to Hong Kong society, so we will not dissolve easily,” he stated. “We will do our best to discharge our duty until the last moment.”
In an announcement on Wednesday, the affiliation stated it was “deeply concerned that the police have repeatedly arrested senior members of the media and searched the offices of news organizations containing large quantities of journalistic materials within a year.”
Hong Kong officers have denied any crackdown on press freedom. In an look on the Foreign Correspondents Club of Hong Kong in September, Regina Ip, a pro-Beijing lawmaker, pointed to Stand News as proof that freedom of speech was intact.
“The freedom of expression is still alive and well,” she said. “Hong Kong Stand News, all these websites are still carrying on as usual.”
Joy Dong contributed analysis.