Hong Kong police raided the headquarters of one of the city's last pro-democracy news sites and jailed seven current and former employees and contributors on Wednesday.
Stand News was founded 2014 as a nonprofit organization and made a name for itself covering the pro-democracy protests in 2019. The seven individuals taken into custody Wednesday were arrested on suspicion of conspiring to publish "seditious materials" and encouraging hatred toward the government, according to police. The authorizes also froze a total of HK$61 million in assets.
Following the raid, the outlet announced it would shut down operations.
"Stand News’s editorial policy was to be independent and committed to safeguarding Hong Kong’s core values of democracy, human rights, freedom, the rule of law and justice," Stand News said in an announcement, as reported by the Hong Kong Free Press. "Thank you, readers, for your continued support."
Hong Kong's Foreign Correspondents' Club said it was "deeply concerned" about the arrests.
"The Foreign Correspondents Club, Hong Kong is deeply concerned over the arrests of six journalists and individuals associated with Stand News, including former directors … 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 group declared.
Hong Kong officials have engaged in crackdowns on organizations considered a threat to the government since the Chinese Communist Party enacted a National Security Law in June 2020 intended to tamp down on protests. Authorities used the law to arrest five editors from Apple Daily, an outlet that had long defended democracy in Hong Kong, accusing the outlet of playing a "crucial part" in what they called a conspiracy with foreign countries to impose sanctions against China and Hong Kong. Apple Daily founder Jimmy Lai is currently serving a 20-month prison sentence after being convicted of playing a role in the 2019 protests.
Earlier this month, thousands of Hong Kong residents seeking refuge responded when the United Kingdom opened visa applications for the former British colony.
"The erosion of liberty in Hong Kong is an affront to freedom and democracy" British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss tweeted of the announcement.