Yesterday, the authorities in China made clear their core values are diametrically opposed to those fine ideals as police raided the media company’s offices and detained seven current and former employees for “conspiracy to publish seditious publications”. As a result, Stand News said it was “ceasing operations immediately” and all staff were dismissed.
Police claimed Stand News had published articles that incited hatred against the authorities, for example by reporting claims the Communist Party had extended its powers through the city’s courts and that pro-democracy demonstrators had gone missing or been sexually harassed.
Appearing unconcerned about prejudging any future trials, Hong Kong’s chief secretary John Lee said he supported the raids and that “anybody who attempts to make use of media work as a tool to pursue their political purpose or other interests countering the law, particularly offences that endanger national security, they are the evil element that damages press freedom”.
The outside world was unimpressed. The UN human rights office said: “We are witnessing an extremely rapid closing of the civic space and outlets for Hong Kong’s civil society to speak and express themselves freely.” And Benedict Rogers, of the non-governmental organisation Hong Kong Watch, said an “all-out assault on the freedom of the press in Hong Kong” was turning “this once great, open, international city... into little more than a police state”.
We are watching the remnants of freedom in Hong Kong die, as its leaders use Orwellian language in an attempt to defend the indefensible.