China continues clampdown on ‘free speech’ in Hong Kong

Stand News is the latest media site to be targeted by the national security police in a massive raid 

Listen to the article

Pro-democracy activists have been rounded up and imprisoned. Journalists and media executives have been arrested in a city previously known for its civil rights.

In the past 12 months, Hong Kong has rapidly been turned into a police state. It has become just another authoritarian piece of the Communist Party of China’s red jigsaw puzzle.

Promises of a “One Country, Two Systems” model have been broken as President Xi Jinping’s regime stifles dissent and silences the voices of freedom.

On Wednesday, hundreds of Hong Kong national security police raided the office of online pro-democracy media outlet Stand News

At least six people, including senior staff, were arrested for “conspiracy to publish seditious publications” under the new National Security Law.

“These actions are a further blow to press freedom in Hong Kong and will continue to chill the media environment in the city following a difficult year for the city’s news outlets,” the Foreign Correspondents’ Club in Hong Kong said in a statement. 

The purge:

  • Stand News was launched in 2014 as a non-profit organization.
  • It was the most prominent pro-democracy publication left in Hong Kong.
  • The vibrant tabloid-styled Apple Daily was forced to close earlier this year.
  • Multi-millionaire Founder Jimmy Lai has been jailed because of his pro-democracy views.
  • Twenty-four hours before the Stand News swoop, Lai was hit with a new “seditious publications” charge.
  • Along with six other former Apple Daily staff.

What was said: “Because of the situation, Stand News is now stopping operations. Acting Editor in Chief, Patrick Lam, has resigned and all Stand News employees are dismissed,” the online publication said in a Facebook post as reported by The Guardian media group.

Hong Kong executive’s goal is to get rid of all media that doesn’t support the official narrative.

Cédric Alviani, the East Asia bureau chief of Reporters Without Borders

Reaction to the news: “With Stand News, one can see that the Hong Kong executive’s goal is to get rid of all media that doesn’t support the official narrative in order to bring Hong Kong down to the level of repression and censorship that is equivalent to mainland China,” Cédric Alviani, the East Asia bureau chief of  Reporters Without Borders, said.

Delve deeper: Last year, China imposed a draconian National Security Law on Hong Kong after massive pro-democracy protests in 2019. Since then, hundreds of activists and journalists have been arrested.

End game: In October, Amnesty International was forced to close its two offices in Hong Kong. Regional operations were moved to other offices in the Asia-Pacific.

Fear and reprisals: “This decision has been driven by Hong Kong’s National Security Law, which has made it effectively impossible for human rights organizations in Hong Kong to work without fear of serious reprisals from the government,” Anjhula Mya Singh Bais, the chairperson of Amnesty’s International Board, said.

City clampdown: The law punishes secession, subversion, terrorism, and collusion with foreign forces with up to life in prison. Interpretation of the draconian measures has been condemned by the United States and its allies, including the European Union and the United Kingdom, as well as Australia. 

Historical point: Hong Kong was handed back to China by the UK in 1997 under the “One Country, Two Systems” model. At the time, Beijing guaranteed the city a high degree of autonomy with limited democracy. But that no longer exists.

China Factor comment: A red curtain has descended on the city as Beijing sweeps away the last vestiges of Hong Kong’s “autonomy.”