Hong Kong’s pro-democracy news site Stand News ceased operations Wednesday after hundreds of police raided its headquarters and arrested senior staff and board members over an alleged conspiracy to publish a “seditious publication,” as Chinese authorities continue to crack down on independent press in the city.
The outlet said in a statement on Facebook that its chief editor has resigned and all employees have been dismissed. Stand News’ website and social media accounts will be removed in the coming days, according to the statement.
More than 200 officers were involved in Wednesday’s raid, in which police seized computers, phones and other materials. The raid was headed by the city’s national security police division. Police also froze nearly $8 million in assets under a national security law enacted last year.
Police did not identify who was arrested. The Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post reported that arrests included current and former editors and former board members.
The arrests raise concerns over Beijing’s continued crackdown on Hong Kong’s press freedoms as Chinese authorities tighten their grip on the semi-autonomous former British colony.
Over the summer, pro-democracy outlet Apply Daily shut down after weathering multiple police raids and arrests under the same national security law, which is widely criticized.
The Asia program coordinator for the U.S.-based Committee to Protect Journalists called on authorities to release those arrested and drop all charges “if Hong Kong is to retain any semblance of freedoms that its residents enjoyed a few years ago.”
Hong Kong’s national security police Superintendent Li Kwai-wah said Wednesday’s raid was not a sign of a widespread crackdown on press freedom.
“We are not targeting reporters, we are not targeting the media, we just targeted national security offenses,” he said, according to The Associated Press. “If you only report, I don’t think this is a problem.”
He also encouraged Hong Kong media outlets to refrain from biased reporting.
“You know well how to report, how to be a responsible reporter, how to make a non-biased report to your readers,” Superintendent Li said. “That’s all I can give you.”
• This article is based in part on wire service reports.