Hong Kong, a city that once enjoyed some of the freest media in Asia, is being deprived of its last independent journalism voices. Most recently, Citizen News, a small online news site in Hong Kong known for its in-depth coverage of courts and local politics, ceased operations on January 3. The chief editor cited concern over the increasing number of arrests of independent journalists and editors in Hong Kong.
On December 29, Hong Kong authorities raided and arrested seven senior staff at Stand News, forcing yet another of the few remaining bastions of free and independent media to cease operations. The seven were arrested on suspicion of conspiring to publish seditious material, according to the police.
In June, Apple Daily, one of Hong Kong’s best-known pro-democracy newspapers, was forced to close after repeated police raids of its newsroom and the arrests of several editors and its founder, Jimmy Lai. Mr. Lai was recently charged with a new accusation of sedition related to the newspaper, as were six other former employees. Mr. Lai had already been sentenced to 20 months in prison for his support of the pro-democracy movement. He now faces up to life in prison with the additional charges.
Hong Kong returned to People’s Republic of China, or PRC, rule in 1997 with the promise that individual rights, and a free press, would be protected. But Beijing has steadily eroded these freedoms since imposing a national security law on Hong Kong in 2020.
In a written statement, Secretary of State Antony Blinken declared, “Journalism is not sedition.” He called on the PRC and Hong Kong authorities to “cease targeting Hong Kong’s free and independent media and to immediately release those journalists and media executives who have been unjustly detained and charged.”
“Freedom of expression, including media freedom, and access to information provided by an independent media are critical to prosperous and secure societies,” said Secretary Blinken. “These freedoms enabled Hong Kong to flourish as a global center for finance, trade, education, and culture. By silencing independent media, PRC and local authorities undermine Hong Kong’s credibility and viability. A confident government that is unafraid of the truth embraces a free press.”