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One of the largest remaining independent media outlets in Hong Kong shut itself down Wednesday. The closure came after police raided its offices, arrested editors and board members, and accused them of “sedition.” As Nick Schifrin reports, the death of Stand News, is another significant step in China’s Hong Kong crackdown.
Today, one the largest remaining independent media outlets in Hong Kong shut itself down after police raided its offices and accused its editors and board members of sedition.
It's the latest muzzling of Hong Kong media since Beijing passed the national security law in 2020.
And, as Nick Schifrin reports, the death of Stand News is another significant step in China's Hong Kong crackdown.
In downtown Hong Kong, Stand News' senior editors were arrested, boxes of computers, materials confiscated, and the journalists who jostled with police one step closer to being silenced.
Two hundred officers rated Stand News' offices, seen here back in June, one of Hong Kong's few surviving independent media outlets. Their crime — quote — "inciting dissatisfaction and contempt" for Hong Kong's government, said the head of the police's national security department, Steve Li.
Steve Li, Senior Superintendent, Hong Kong Police Department:
don't be biased. Don't be biased. You know well how to report, how to be a responsible reporter, how to make a nonbiased report to your readers.
Deputy editor Ronson Chan visited his offices after the raid and stood by Stand's journalism.
Ronson Chan, Deputy Editor, Stand News (through translator):
Stand News has been doing professional reporting. There's no doubt about it. The whole world sees it.
But the world has also seen Hong Kong target that professional reporting. The largest independent media outlet, Apple Daily, shut itself down this August after a plainclothes police raid last August, and media tycoon Jimmy Lai was frog-marched out of his own newsroom.
This week, authorities added a — quote — "seditious publications" accusation to Lai's already lengthy charge sheet. Also arrested today, Stand News board members former Democratic legislator Margaret Ng and Denise Ho, who became a pro-democracy activist as part of the 2014 and 2019 protest movements, even though she was one of Hong Kong's biggest pop stars.
We interviewed her in 2019.
How does the singer become an activist?
Denise Ho, Former Board Member, Stand News:
When there are these youngsters going onto the streets safeguarding the city and giving up their futures for it.
Back then, Ho was in Washington, D.C., with Nathan Law, the youngest ever Hong Kong pro-democracy legislator, disqualified by Beijing. He was forced into exile to the U.K., where we spoke by Skype today.
Nathan Law, Former Legislative Council Member, Hong Kong:
And for those people who are not listening to state media, government propaganda, Stand News is their most credible source of information. But, for now, it's all gone.
Is it the last credible source of information that existed in Hong Kong?
Our freedom movement, our democratic movement, a large part of it relies on, for us, we have access to truth, we have access to a different narrative compared to the one the government is providing to us.
And it's really difficult for us to find a really credible and well-read news media outlet for now.
Every part of their movement is being dismantled. This month, Hong Kong held elections with new rules to ensure only pro-Beijing patriots could compete.
And over the last 18 months, thousands of pro-democracy activists and officials have been arrested, many without any notice, including today.
I think many of us are unable to imagine the life of worrying that, on every single morning, 6:00 a.m., there would be a group of police knocking on your door, and you will be taken away. Possibly, you stay in prison for years before you can come back to your home.
The legal system of Hong Kong is just being manipulated, being weaponized. And it's just serving for the government, not for the people.
What Beijing would say, what Hong Kong authorities would say is that the steps they have taken under the national security law has brought peace to Hong Kong, has reduced the amount of violence, especially associated with the protests from 2019 and 2020.
What's your response to that?
Most of the violence were coming from the police itself, and none of these police are being held accountable.
The fact that Hong Kong people are not as vocal as before, not because they are satisfied, but because their rights are being deprived.
If I asked you this next question, and you were in Hong Kong and you answered, you would be breaking the law, but because you're in the U.K., you can answer it.
What do you think the West should be doing right now?
The West has to step up.
I think 2019 protest movement really awakened the whole world. With growing awareness of the genocide behavior in Xinjiang, the human rights violation in Hong Kong, and the military intimidation to Taiwan, we are moving towards a much more assertive policy towards the growing aggression.
But, at least publicly, that assertive policy has not produced any results, has not actually changed Chinese behavior.
What we're lacking is a much more coordinated pushback and also democratic countries using multilateral and different mechanisms to work together.
And I think this is how we can genuinely hold China accountable for human rights violation. And I hope that we are stepping towards that direction.
Nathan Law, thank you very much.
Thank you so much, Nick.
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Nick Schifrin is the foreign affairs and defense correspondent for PBS NewsHour, based in Washington, D.C. He leads NewsHour's foreign reporting and has created week-long, in-depth series for NewsHour from China, Russia, Ukraine, Nigeria, Egypt, Kenya, Cuba, Mexico, and the Baltics. The PBS NewsHour series "Inside Putin's Russia" won a 2018 Peabody Award and the National Press Club's Edwin M. Hood Award for Diplomatic Correspondence. In November 2020, Schifrin received the American Academy of Diplomacy’s Arthur Ross Media Award for Distinguished Reporting and Analysis of Foreign Affairs.
As the deputy senior producer for foreign affairs and defense at the PBS NewsHour, Dan plays a key role in helping oversee and produce the program’s foreign affairs and defense stories. His pieces have broken new ground on an array of military issues, exposing debates simmering outside the public eye.
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