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Hong Kong leader says Stand News arrests do not target media industry

Hong Kong Managing Director Carrie Lam speaks alongside Eric Chan Kwok-ki, Director of the Managing Director’s Office, at a press conference in Beijing, China on December 22, 2021. REUTERS / Shubing Wang / File Photo

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HONG KONG, Dec. 30 (Reuters) – A Hong Kong police raid on a pro-democracy media organization and the arrest of seven people linked to it was aimed at seditious activity and not at suppressing the media, the chief said on Thursday. of the city government.

About 200 police officers raided the Stand News office on Wednesday, froze its assets and arrested the seven current editors and former and former members of the board of directors, for “conspiracy to publish seditious publications”. Read more

They were detained by the police for about 30 hours after their arrest, pending formal charges or release. Under Hong Kong law, police can detain suspects for up to 48 hours.

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The raid was the latest crackdown on media and dissent in general in the former British colony since China imposed a strict national security law in the city last year aimed at ending months of protests in favor of democracy.

“These actions have nothing to do with the so-called suppression of press freedom,” Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam told reporters.

“Journalism is not seditious … but seditious activity cannot be tolerated under the guise of topical reporting.”

Established in 2014 as a nonprofit, Stand News was the largest remaining pro-democracy publication in Hong Kong after a national security investigation this year led to the shutdown of the jailed mogul’s Apple Daily tabloid. Jimmy Lai.

Stand News, an online publication, closed hours after the raid and all of its employees were laid off.

The Stand News site was not accessible this Thursday. His office manager in London, Yeung Tin Shui, said on Facebook that his office had also closed.

The seven arrested included four former Stand News board members – former Democratic lawmaker Margaret Ng, pop singer Denise Ho, Chow Tat-chi and Christine Fang – as well as former editor Chung Pui- kuen and interim editor Patrick Lam. Chung’s wife Chan Pui-man, formerly of Apple Daily, has been re-arrested in prison.

Media advocacy groups, some Western governments including Canada and Germany, and the United Nations Human Rights Office have condemned the raid and arrests as a sign of the erosion of freedom of the press in the world financial center.

Hong Kong returned to Chinese rule in 1997 with the promise that many individual rights, including a free press, would be protected.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken called on the Chinese and Hong Kong authorities to immediately release those arrested. Read more

Lam, referring to Blinken’s appeal, said it would be against the rule of law.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry’s office in Hong Kong said support for press freedom was being used as an excuse to disrupt stability in the city.

“Those who engage in activities which endanger national security and undermine the rule of law and public order under the guise of journalism are the black sheep who tarnish press freedom and will be held accountable “he said in a statement.

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written by Marius Zaharia; Editing by Christian Schmollinger, Robert Birsel

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