Hong Kong local court denied bail to two former Stand News editors who were charged with sedition Thursday, just a day after police raided the pro-democracy outlet, leading to seven arrests and the shutdown of the organization.
Former Stand News editor Chung Pui-Kuen, interim editor Patrick Lam and Best Pencil (Hong Kong) Limited, the legal person behind the organization, have been charged with conspiracy “to publish and / or to reproduce seditious publications â. West Kowloon Magistrates’ Court Magistrate Peter Law on Thursday dismissed Mr Chung and Mr Lam’s bail requests.
Stand News was founded in 2014 as a non-profit organization. After Jimmy Lai’s Apple Daily was shut down following similar police action, News from the stand had become the city’s largest pro-democracy press organization.
More than 200 police raided the outlet’s office on Wednesday and froze assets worth Â£ 5.8million. Hours later, the organization announced that it would close its doors and that all of its employees would be laid off. Its London office was also closed.
Of the seven people arrested on Wednesday, four – former Democratic lawmaker Margaret Ng, pop star Denise Ho, Chow Tat-chi and Christine Fang – were released on bail. All four are former Stand News board members and have yet to be charged.
Mr. Chung’s wife Chan Pui-man, who was also arrested, was already in prison on various charges. She was previously editor-in-chief at Apple Daily.
The raids and subsequent arrests also sparked international censorship and rekindled concerns over press freedom in Hong Kong, although the region’s chief executive, Carrie Lam, said the raid was not intended to remove the media.
âJournalism is not seditiousâ¦ but seditious activity cannot be tolerated under the guise of reporting,â she said.
Hong Kong has faced numerous protests since China introduced the National Security Law, which Beijing says it uses for national security reasons, but which critics say is aimed at dampening pro-democracy voices.
Despite calls on Hong Kong and China to stop targeting the region’s free press, Beijing has claimed that News from the stand was a “political organization in its own right” which “continued to publish articles which incited others to resort to violence and even to divide the country”.
“Those who engage in activities that endanger national security … under the guise of journalism are black sheep who tarnish press freedom and will be held accountable,” the Chinese Foreign Ministry office said. in Hong Kong.
Additional reports by agencies