HomeNewsChinese communist dictatorship shuts down last opposition newspaper in Hong Kong

Chinese communist dictatorship shuts down last opposition newspaper in Hong Kong

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In a new government crackdown on the city’s once-active independent press, hundreds of officers from the Hong Kong police’s national security department raided the offices of the news website Stand News in the early hours of December 29.

The force detained six people affiliated with the news outlet on suspicion of conspiring to commit sedition under the National Security Act, according to official reports, which identified the detainees as deputy editor Ronson Chan, acting editor-in-chief Patrick Lam, former editor-in-chief Chung Pui-kuen and former director and chief science editor Chow Tai-chi.

The other two detainees, singer Denise Ho and lawyer Margaret Ng, are former members of the newspaper’s board of directors, say those reports, which also note that Chan chairs the Hong Kong Journalists Association. The arrests were carried out at their homes at around 6 a.m. under the law, which covers conspiracy to print or distribute seditious material, police said in a statement.

The operation raises further fears for freedom of speech and media freedom in the former British colony, which returned to Chinese power in 1997 on the promise that a wide range of individual rights would be protected.

“This is outrageous and intolerable. Beijing is clearly not ceasing the political purge. Denise is one of the most talented, courageous and honest artists I have ever known. This detention is illegal and a simple political revenge by the Chinese Communist Party,” lamented the artist known as Badiucao in statements to La Razon.

Since his self-exile from China in 2009 Badiucao has used his work to confront the country’s leader, Xi Jinping, in particular, and the regime in general. Like all political cartoonists, he uses his art to challenge censorship and dictatorship in the country and confessed to La razón that because of this he is “attacked and harassed , but despite this he will not desist in continuing his work.”

“My daily routine is to receive death threats daily on the Internet, on my social networks, Twitter, Instagram, direct messages, and I am even followed by secret agents.” He knows that as an artist who mocks the Chinese regime, he risks retaliation, both against himself and his family in China. For years, he has hidden behind a mask in public, working incognito guerrilla-style, both in Australia and whenever he travels.

Steven Butler, Asia program coordinator for the Committee to Protect Journalists , noted that “the arrests amount to an assault on Hong Kong’s democracy at a time when China is intensifying its direct control over the former colony” and that “the authorities must release the six and drop all charges against them immediately if it is to retain any semblance of the freedoms its residents enjoyed only a few years ago.”

Stand News was the only Hong Kong media outlet to collaborate with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists in reporting on the Pandora Papers in October 2021, a set of 12 million leaked documents revealing the hidden wealth and tax structures of some of the world’s richest and most powerful people.

Created in 2014 as a non-profit organization, it is the most prominent pro-democracy publication left in town after a national security investigation earlier this year led to the closure of jailed tycoon Jimmy Lai’s popular tabloid Apple Daily.

Last Tuesday, Lai was charged with a new sedition offense related to the media outlet, as were six other former management employees. He was one of the most prominent voices of the opposition, had already been sentenced to 20 months in prison in connection with his support for the pro-democracy movement, and faces a possible sentence of up to life in prison on other charges.

Authorities have sent warning letters to foreign media and several international journalists have been denied visas to work in the former British colony. The government has also announced plans to enact a law against so-called fake news.

After the demise of Apple Daily, Stand News became one of the last openly pro-democracy newspapers in the city, and the authorities announced that it could be the next target.

The former British colony’s security secretary, Chris Tang, earlier this month accused the media outlet of “biasing, discrediting and demonizing” reports about conditions in a city prison. Lau Siu-Kai, an advisor to Beijing, was even more blunt, telling Chinese state media that “the margin of survival” of the opposition press is “very small”.

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