Hong Kong editors accused of sedition, US, Canada criticize raid

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Pro-democracy activist and singer Denise Ho, former Stand News board member, leaves West Police Station after being released from custody in Hong Kong on December 30, 2021, following his arrest the day before along with six other current and former staff of the local media outlet under a British colonial-era law for “conspiracy to publish a seditious publication”.BERTHA WANG / AFP / Getty Images

Two former editors of a pro-democracy Hong Kong online media outlet were charged with sedition and turned down on bail Thursday, a day after one of the city’s last outspoken critical voices said she would cease her crimes. activities following a police raid on his office and seven arrests. .

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam defended the raid on Stand News amid a wider crackdown on dissent in the semi-autonomous city, telling reporters that “inciting other people … could not be tolerated under the guise of reporting “.

US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken called on Hong Kong authorities to release detainees, and Canadian Foreign Minister Melanie Joly said her country was deeply concerned about the arrests, including singer Denise Ho, citizen and activist Canadian.

According to an indictment, the National Security Police filed one count of conspiracy to publish a seditious publication against Chung Pui-kuen and Patrick Lam, former editors of Stand News. Police also said they would sue the company for sedition.

The cases went to West Kowloon court on Thursday, police said in a statement. Lam was not present in court because he was in the hospital. Both were denied bail.

The others were held for further questioning. They include four former Stand News board members, including Ho and former lawmaker Margaret Ng. Ho was released from custody on Thursday afternoon.

Chan Pui-man, former editor of the pro-democracy Apple Daily newspaper and wife of Chung, was also arrested. Apply Daily was forced to cease operations earlier this year after its publisher, Jimmy Lai, and major editors were arrested and its assets frozen.

The seven men were arrested on Wednesday under a crime ordinance that dates back to Hong Kong’s time as a British colony before 1997, when it was returned to China with Beijing’s promise to maintain freedoms. Western style for 50 years. If found guilty, they could face up to two years in prison and a fine of up to 5,000 Hong Kong dollars ($ 640).

“Journalism is not sedition, but seditious acts and activities and the incitement of other people by other acts and activities cannot be tolerated under the guise of reporting,” said Lam, the leader of Hong Kong, at a press conference. “It should be very clear what news reporting is and what seditious acts or activities aimed at undermining national security are. “

Blinken criticized the arrests, saying that by silencing the independent media, Chinese and local authorities are undermining Hong Kong’s “credibility and viability”. A confident government that is not afraid of the truth embraces a free press. “

“Freedom of expression, including freedom of the media, and access to information provided by independent media are essential for prosperous and secure societies. These freedoms have allowed Hong Kong to thrive as a global center of finance, commerce, education and culture, ”he said.

Joy tweeted that “freedom of media and expression remain the cornerstones of democracy and essential for the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms.” She said Canada will continue to speak out and denounce violations of these freedoms, in partnership with our international allies.

Stand News said on Wednesday it was ceasing operations and laid off all its staff.

The United States also sanctioned five Hong Kong-based Chinese officials following the city’s legislative council elections earlier this month for curtailing Hong Kong’s autonomy and freedoms.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told a daily briefing Thursday that China would respond by imposing countermeasures on five Americans, including former Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and President of the United States. the Chinese-US Economic and Security Review Commission Carolyn Bartholomew.

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