Hong Kong news outlet to close amid crackdown on dissent

International

Police officers guard outside the building of Stand News’ office in Hong Kong, Wednesday, Dec. 29, 2021. Hong Kong police arrest six members of online news outlet for sedition in continuing crackdown on dissent. Hong Kong police say they have arrested six current and former staff members of an online media company for conspiracy to publish a seditious publication. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)

HONG KONG (AP) — A Hong Kong online news site said Sunday that it will cease operations in light of deteriorating press freedoms, days after police raided and arrested seven people for sedition at a separate pro-democracy news outlet.

Citizen News announced its decision in a Facebook post Sunday. It said it would stop updating its site on Jan. 4, and it would be shuttered after that.

“We all love this place, deeply. Regrettably, what was ahead of us is not just pouring rains or blowing winds, but hurricanes and tsunamis,” it said in a statement.

“We have never forgotten our original intent. Sadly, we can no longer strive to turn our beliefs into reality without fear because of the sea change in the society over the past two years and the deteriorating media environment.”

Citizen News is the third news outlet to close in recent months, following pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily and online site Stand News. Authorities have moved to silence dissent in the semi-autonomous city, once known as a hub for vibrant media outlets, after Beijing implemented a sweeping national security law following massive pro-democracy protests in 2019.

The impending closure of Citizen News came days after authorities raided Stand News and arrested seven people — including editors and former board members — for allegedly conspiring to publish seditious material. Stand News announced on the same day that it would cease to operate.

Two of Stand News’ former editors who were arrested were later formally charged with sedition.

In December, the opposition was shut out from elections under a new law that puts all candidates to a loyalty test, and monuments commemorating the bloody 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown in Beijing were taken down.

The U.S. and other Western government have condemned diminishing press and civil freedoms that Beijing promised to uphold for 50 years following Hong Kong’s 1997 handover from Britain.

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam last week defended the raid on Stand News, telling reporters that “inciting other people … could not be condoned under the guise of news reporting.”

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