On Wednesday (Dec 29), US Secretary of State Antony Blinken urged Chinese and Hong Kong authorities to immediately release Stand News employees detained following a police raid that shut down the publication jobs.
“We call on PRC and Hong Kong authorities to cease targeting Hong Kong’s free and independent media and to immediately release those journalists jobs and media executives who have been unjustly detained and charged,” Blinken said in a statement, referring to the People’s Republic of China.
Police in Hong Kong, where Beijing has been tightening control, stormed Stand News’ offices on Wednesday, seizing phones, computers, and documents and arresting the publication’s editor-in-chief. Stand News later announced that it would cease operations immediately. “By silencing independent media, PRC and local authorities undermine Hong Kong’s credibility and viability,” Blinken said.
“A free press is embraced by a confident government that is unafraid of the truth.” Stand News, founded in 2014 as a non-profit organization, was the most visible remaining pro-democracy publication in Hong Kong after the closure of jailed tycoon Jimmy Lai’s Apple Daily tabloid earlier this year due to a national security investigation.
The assault on Stand News has heightened concerns about press freedom in the former British colony, which returned to Chinese sovereignty in 1997 on the assurance that its liberties, including the freedom of the press, would be preserved.
Blinken stated, “Journalism is not sedition.” The most recent arrests were made under British colonial-era law for “conspiracy to print seditious publication,” with police accusing Stand News of inciting hatred against the Hong Kong administration through articles and blog entries.
Patrick Lam, the editor-in-chief, and Denise Ho, a board member who resigned in June, were among those arrested. Canadian Foreign Minister Melanie Joly also denounced the arrests including of Ho, who was born in Hong Kong but grew up in Canada.” We are deeply concerned by the arrests in Hong Kong of the current and former board and staff members from Stand News, including Canadian citizen and activist Denise Ho,” Joly said.
The raid and arrests, according to European Union spokesman Peter Stano, showed “a further degradation in #PressFreedom” in the city. The Society of Professional Journalists, a nonprofit based in the United States that advocates free speech and ethical standards, has expressed support for Stand News.
“SPJ stands with our brave colleagues in Hong Kong who continue to believe in the right of news organizations to be free from government control,” said Dan Kubiske, co-chair of the group’s international community.
In the hopes of changing Beijing’s behavior, the US has already imposed sanctions on Hong Kong leaders and reduced the territory’s separate status in US regulations. China’s crackdown in Hong Kong is one of several issues that have sparked outrage in the United States and heightened tensions between the world’s two largest economies.
The United States has led a diplomatic boycott of next year’s Winter Olympics in Beijing, citing what it considers genocide against the predominantly Muslim Uyghur people.
The US has also accused China of unfair trade policies and endangering security by asserting itself in the tumultuous South and East China Seas.’