HONG KONG — Tons of of Hong Kong law enforcement officials arrested six present or former senior employees members of an outspoken pro-democracy information web site and raided the positioning’s headquarters on Wednesday, one more crackdown by the federal government on town’s once-vibrant impartial press.
The six have been arrested on suspicion of conspiring to publish seditious materials, based on an announcement from the police, which didn’t specify the information outlet. However Stand Information, a seven-year-old on-line publication, posted temporary video footage on Fb exhibiting law enforcement officials on the doorways of one among its deputy editors, Ronson Chan, about 6 a.m. Officers then requested Mr. Chan to cease filming, claiming he was interfering with their work.
Greater than 200 officers entered the publication’s headquarters in Hong Kong and performed a search, the police mentioned. Footage and pictures reviewed by The New York Instances confirmed officers stringing orange tape throughout a hallway contained in the workplace constructing, and apparently wheeling suitcases and containers containing computer systems and different supplies out of the newsroom. A photograph confirmed no less than two dozen giant blue plastic containers stacked within the constructing’s foyer.
Separate footage confirmed Patrick Lam, the appearing editor in chief of Stand Information, being escorted away from his dwelling in handcuffs. A lady requested Mr. Lam if he had something to say, to which each he and an officer replied, “Look on-line.”
Denise Ho, a well-liked native singer who had served on the board of the information web site, was additionally arrested, based on a publish on her Fb web page.
Hong Kong officers have focused critics throughout civil society, together with within the information media, because the Chinese language Communist Get together imposed a nationwide safety legislation on town in June 2020 to quell months of fierce pro-democracy protests in 2019.
Earlier this yr, Apple Each day, maybe 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 high editors and its founder, Jimmy Lai.
On Tuesday, Mr. Lai was charged with a new accusation of sedition associated to the newspaper, as have been six different former senior workers. Mr. Lai, one among Hong Kong’s most distinguished opposition voices, had already been sentenced to 20 months in prison in relation to his help of the pro-democracy motion, and he faces as much as life in jail on different expenses.
Officers have despatched warning letters to overseas information retailers about protection they dislike, and several other overseas journalists have been denied visas to work within the former British colony. The federal government has additionally introduced plans to enact a legislation towards so-called fake news.
After Apple Each day folded, Stand Information grew to become one of many metropolis’s final brazenly pro-democracy retailers, and officers made clear that it might be focused subsequent.
Through the 2019 protests, Stand Information reporters had documented incidents 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 yr, Stand Information mentioned it had removed on-line commentaries printed in Could or earlier, noting that Hong Kong was starting to focus on “speech crimes.”
Hong Kong’s safety secretary, Chris Tang, earlier this month accused the information web site of “biased, smearing and demonizing” reviews about circumstances at a jail within the metropolis. Lau Siu-Kai, an adviser to Beijing, was much more blunt, telling Chinese language state media that “the survival room” for opposition information retailers was shrinking.
“Stand Information will come into an finish,” Mr. Lau said.
It was not instantly clear whether or not the outlet would face expenses below the nationwide safety legislation, which may convey as much as life imprisonment. The sedition cost doesn’t fall below the safety legislation however moderately stems from a colonial-era ordinance. However the arrests have been carried out by nationwide safety police, and the warrant for the newsroom raid was additionally issued below the safety legislation, the police mentioned.
Authorized consultants mentioned the arrests confirmed that the authorities have been blurring the strains between the safety legislation and different felony legal guidelines in Hong Kong, primarily permitting the safety legislation’s extra sweeping provisions, corresponding to stricter bail circumstances, for use in additional instances.
The police’s nationwide safety division may “develop its authority to cowl all types of non-NSL instances,” Thomas Kellogg, government director of Georgetown College’s Middle for Asian Legislation, wrote on Twitter, utilizing an acronym for the nationwide safety legislation.
Mr. Chan, the Stand Information editor whose dwelling 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, cellphone and iPad in addition to financial institution paperwork and his press accreditation.
“Stand Information has all the time reported professionally,” Mr. Chan mentioned. “That is apparent for the entire world to see.”
Mr. Chan additionally leads the Hong Kong Journalists Association, a commerce group of about 500 native journalists that has come below scrutiny.
Mr. Tang, the safety secretary, accused the affiliation in September of “infiltrating” campuses and recruiting unprofessional scholar journalists; he additionally advised that it had acquired overseas funding. The safety legislation criminalizes collusion with overseas forces.
“We’re conscious of what the Hong Kong Journalists Affiliation means to the media trade and to Hong Kong society, so we won’t dissolve simply,” he mentioned. “We are going to do our greatest to discharge our responsibility till the final second.”
In an announcement on Wednesday, the affiliation mentioned it was “deeply involved that the police have repeatedly arrested senior members of the media and searched the places of work of stories organizations containing giant portions of journalistic supplies inside a yr.”
Hong Kong officers have denied any crackdown on press freedom. In an look on the International Correspondents Membership of Hong Kong in September, Regina Ip, a pro-Beijing lawmaker, pointed to Stand Information as proof that freedom of speech was intact.
“The liberty of expression continues to be alive and nicely,” she said. “Hong Kong Stand Information, all these web sites are nonetheless carrying on as regular.”
Pleasure Dong contributed analysis.