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Hong Kong legitimate-democracy Stand Info closes after police raids condemned by U.N., Germany

Economic system7 hours ago (Dec 29, 2021 09: 47AM ET)


© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A overall watch of the Central monetary district for the length of sundown, in Hong Kong, China March 11, 2021. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu


By Edmond Ng and James Pomfret

HONG KONG (Reuters) -Hong Kong legitimate-democracy media outlet Stand Info shut down on Wednesday after police raided its yelp of job, iced over its property and arrested senior group on suspected “seditious publication” offences within the most up to the moment crackdown on the metropolis’s media.

The raid raises extra concerns about press freedom within the feeble British colony, which returned to Chinese rule in 1997 with the promise that its freedoms, in conjunction with a free press, would be secure.

The police action brought on censure by Germany and the U.N. Human Rights Situation of job, which acknowledged it was once horrified at the “extraordinarily instant closing of the civic dwelling and retail outlets for Hong Kong’s civil society to narrate and utter themselves freely”.

Stand Info, pickle up in 2014 as a non-profit organisation, was once the most smartly-known remaining legitimate-democracy publication in Hong Kong after a nationwide security investigation this year led to the closure of jailed smartly off particular person Jimmy Lai’s Apple (NASDAQ:) Day after day tabloid.

“Stand Info is now stopping operations,” the publication acknowledged on Facebook (NASDAQ:), adding all workers had been disregarded.

Sedition is no longer among the many offences listed below a sweeping nationwide security law imposed by Beijing in June 2020 that punishes terrorism, collusion with international forces, subversion and secession with imaginable life imprisonment.

But contemporary court docket judgements have enabled authorities docket-rulings-free-hong-kong-police-probe-older-offences-below-security-law-2021-10-19 to utilize powers conferred by the unusual legislation to deploy infrequently ever feeble colonial know-how approved strategies covering sedition.

Steve Li, head of the police nationwide security division, instructed reporters Stand Info had printed files and commentary inciting hatred towards authorities.

He acknowledged just a few of the articles acknowledged protesters went lacking for the length of the metropolis’s 2019 legitimate-democracy unrest or had been sexually stressed, which he called “factually baseless” and “malicious”. Li furthermore acknowledged some articles falsely claimed the Communist Event prolonged its powers thru the metropolis’s impartial courts or called for international sanctions.

Li did no longer specify the actual articles. Reuters has no longer independently reviewed any Stand Info articles.

Li acknowledged police seized property price HK$61 million ($7.82 million) as well to computers, telephones and journalistic materials, and that he did no longer rule out additional arrests.

“We are no longer focusing on reporters. We are focusing on nationwide security offences,” Li acknowledged.

Police acknowledged 200 officers searched the Stand Info yelp of job and three men and 4 ladies folks, frail 34-73, had been arrested on suspicion of “conspiracy to put up seditious publications”.

Police did no longer establish them nonetheless media acknowledged four feeble individuals of the Stand Info board had been arrested – feeble democratic legislator Margaret Ng, pop singer Denise Ho, Chow Tat-chi and Christine Fang – as well to feeble chief editor Chung Pui-kuen and appearing chief editor Patrick Lam.

Chung’s companion, Chan Pui-man, formerly with Apple Day after day, was once re-arrested in prison, media acknowledged.

Reuters might maybe well perhaps well no longer reach those arrested or their merely representatives.

Ronson Chan, Stand Info deputy assignment editor and the head of the Hong Kong Journalists Affiliation (HKJA), was once no longer among those arrested nonetheless acknowledged police confiscated his pc, mobile, pill, press circulate and bank files for the length of a search of his home.

“Stand Info has incessantly reported files professionally,” Chan instructed reporters.

Hong Kong Chief Secretary John Lee instructed reporters he supported the police action.

“Any one who attempts to produce utilize of media work as a tool to pursue their political purpose or other pursuits countering the law, particularly offences that endanger nationwide security, they’re the inappropriate part that damages press freedom,” Lee acknowledged.


Germany condemned the arrests.

“From our level of watch, the occasions illustrate anew that there is a favorite erosion of pluralism, freedom of conception and freedom of the click in Hong Kong – particularly since this nationwide security law came into force,” a spokesperson for the international ministry acknowledged.

“From our level of watch it’s miles extraordinarily determined that serious journalism ought to no longer be positioned below overall suspicion,” she added.

The U.N. rights yelp of job acknowledged it was once “horrified by the persevered crackdown on civic dwelling” in Hong Kong.

“Hong Kong … is sure by the Worldwide Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and has a merely responsibility to respect the rights to freedom of files, expression and affiliation, as well to to make certain due direction of,” it acknowledged in a press liberate to Reuters in Geneva.

“We are witnessing an extraordinarily instant closing of the civic dwelling and retail outlets for Hong Kong’s civil society to narrate and utter themselves freely…”

Steven Butler, Asia programme coordinator for the Committee to Offer protection to Journalists, acknowledged the arrests had been an “commence assault on Hong Kong’s already tattered press freedom”.

Authorities issue the nationwide security law has restored yelp after in most cases-violent legitimate-democracy, anti-China unrest in 2019. Critics issue the legislation has pickle the monetary hub on an authoritarian direction by quashing dissent.

In June, a great deal of of police raided the Apple Day after day, moving executives for alleged “collusion with a international nation”. The newspaper shut down almost right now after.

On Tuesday, prosecutors filed a additional “seditious publications” price towards Lai and 6 other feeble Apple Day after day group.

The Stand Info charter acknowledged independence and a commitment to safeguarding “democracy, human rights, rule of law and justice”.

After the Apple Day after day raid, Stand Info acknowledged it can well perhaps well discontinuance accepting donations from readers and had taken down commentaries from its platform to present protection to supporters, authors and editorial group, adding that “speech crimes” had reach to Hong Kong.

This year, the authorities has furthermore launched into a well-known overhaul of public broadcaster RTHK whereas authorities have acknowledged they’re desirous about “spurious files” legislation.

The HKJA acknowledged it was once “deeply involved that the police have again and again arrested senior individuals of the media” and searched newsrooms.

($1 = 7.7960 Hong Kong dollars)

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