Wednesday, February 28

Hong Kong news site shuts down after pro-Beijing lawmakers sworn in

Hong Kong welcomed a new group of pro-Beijing lawmakers to its Legislative Council on Monday who were elected in an election without opposition candidates, as the editors of one of the last pro-democracy media outlets that remaining in the city announced its closure.

They are the latest in a series of events in the last year in which the local government has been reshaping Hong Kong, with the backing of Beijing, in an effort to crack down on dissent in a city that was once renowned for its freedoms of freedom. expression.

The founders of the Citizen News outlet said Monday that although they have not been contacted by the Hong Kong National Security Police, the deterioration of media freedoms in the financial center makes it unclear whether their reports violate the law. They said the news site will stop publishing on Tuesday.

“We all love this place, deeply. Unfortunately, what we had ahead of us is not just torrential rains or winds, but hurricanes and tsunamis, ”Citizen News said in a statement Sunday, when it originally announced the closure.

Citizen News is the third news outlet to shut down in recent months, after pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily and online site Stand News.

The outlet was founded in 2017 by a group of veteran journalists. Although small, it focused on political news and analysis articles, as well as research.

The space for making such stories has shrunk since China’s central legislature imposed a comprehensive National Security Law in Hong Kong in 2019 following massive anti-government protests. As authorities increased arrests of political activists, civil rights groups and unions disbanded and some activists fled. The independent media have been one of the most prominent victims of the ongoing crackdown.

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“What we understood about freedom of the press has changed a lot,” said Chris Yeung, founder and editor-in-chief of Citizen News. “What is the dividing line between, say, freedom and what the government has always emphasized responsibilities or obligations such as defending national security, public order, etc.”

Yeung told a news conference Monday that the trigger for his decision to shut down was what happened to Stand News. Last week, authorities raided Stand News and arrested seven people, including editors and former board members, for allegedly conspiring to publish seditious material. Stand News announced the same day that it would cease operations.

Later, two of the former Stand News editors who were arrested were formally charged with sedition.

In the summer, authorities forced the closure of Apple Daily, the newspaper owned by media mogul and democracy activist Jimmy Lai. Lai is currently in jail and was recently charged with sedition last week.

The United States and other Western governments have condemned the limits on media and civil liberties that Beijing promised to uphold for 50 years following the 1997 handover of Hong Kong from Britain.

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

The only pro-democracy media outlets left in the city are Hong Kong Free Press, an English news outlet, and Initium, a Chinese news outlet that moved its headquarters to Singapore in August but still has staff. in the city.

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Citizen News compared itself to a small boat in rough waters.

“In the middle of a coming storm, we (ourselves) found ourselves in a critical situation. In the face of a crisis, we must guarantee the safety and well-being of all those on board, “he said.

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