Hong Kong. Months after the closure of the pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily, another Hong Kong-based media company-- Stand News -- has announced that it is halting operation after seven years and removing all contents.
This comes hours after a police raid and seven arrests on Wednesday. The authorities have frozen the assets worth HK$61 million, Hong Kong Free Press reported.
Earlier in the day, more than 200 national security police officers were deployed to raid the offices of Stand News.
As many as seven current or former senior staff members of the Hong Kong online media company were arrested on suspicion of breaching the colonial-era Crimes Ordinance by conspiring to publish seditious publications, the publication added.
This development comes a day as Hong Kong media tycoon Jimmy Lai and six other former staff members of the tabloid Apple Daily are set to face an additional sedition charge, under the Beijing-imposed national security law.
Steve Li, senior superintendent of the Police National Security Department has said that the arrested individuals held "important roles in the company's editorial direction and strategy."
During the newsroom raid, officers found computers, mobile phones and HK$500,000 in cash, he said, adding that other arrest warrants have been issued.
Li accused Stand News of publishing "seditious materials" between the enactment of the security law last June and November 2021 with intent to cause hatred towards the government, the judiciary and cause discontent among the public, which may lead them to disobey the law or the government's orders.
In recent months, crackdowns against news organisations and pro-democracy activists have intensified. Early in June, Apple Daily witnessed similar actions by authorities. It was later shut down.
Just after the raid on the newsroom of Apple Daily, Stand News removed all opinion pieces from their website in June. It also halted donations as six of the board's eight members stepped down.
"These cases have been to court. Did we see this happening? Is there evidence? These were examples of sedition," Li said. "There is strong evidence showing that this online media and other so-called 'international front' [activists] conspired to incite hatred towards the government, and endangered nationals security through its platform."