Two top editors at shuttered Hong Kong pro-democracy website Stand News were charged with sedition and denied bail on Thursday, one day after police raided the outlet’s offices and forced it to close.
National security police charged former editors Chung Pui-kuen and Patrick Lam with conspiracy to publish a seditious publication and planned to charge the company as well, the charge sheet said.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken condemned the raid on Stand News’ offices and the arrest of the publication’s staffers and called on officials in Hong Kong and China to release them.
”Journalism is not sedition. We call on PRC and Hong Kong authorities to cease targeting Hong Kong’s free and independent media and to immediately release those journalists and media executives who have been unjustly detained and charged,” Blinken said in a statement that used the acronym for the People’s Republic of China.
Elsewhere in the statement, Blinken credited an independent media and the free flow of information with helping to make Hong Kong “a global center for finance, trade, education, and culture.”
“By silencing independent media, PRC and local authorities undermine Hong Kong’s credibility and viability. A confident government that is unafraid of the truth embraces a free press,” America’s top diplomat said.
But Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam defended the arrests, saying they had “nothing to do with so-called suppression of press freedom.”
She said “seditious acts and activities and inciting other people through other acts and activities could not be condoned under the guise of news reporting.”
Four former members of the Stand News board — former democratic legislator Margaret Ng, pop star Denise Ho, Chow Tat-chi and Christine Fang — were released on police bail pending further investigations.
Hong Kong has been cracking down on dissent using a national security law passed in June 2020 intended to curb criticism of the ruling Communist Party.
The harsh law criminalizes “secession, subversion, organization and perpetration of terrorist activities, and collusion with a foreign country or with external elements to endanger national security.”
Apple Daily, Hong Kong’s last pro-democracy newspaper, closed in June after five editors and executives were arrested and authorities froze millions of dollars in its assets.
Hong Kong is semi-autonomous but China has been exerting more control following anti-government protests that began in 2019.
Stand News, which was established in 2014, ceased operations Wednesday following the raid, the arrests and the seizure of assets worth about $7.82 million.
With Post wires