A local court in Hong Kong denied bail to two former senior editors of Stand News who were charged with sedition on Thursday, just a day after police raided the pro-democracy outlet, leading to seven arrests and the organisation’s closure.
Former Stand News chief editor Chung Pui-Kuen, acting chief editor Patrick Lam and Best Pencil (Hong Kong) Limited, the corporate entity behind the organisation, were charged with conspiring “to publish and/or reproduce seditious publications”. Magistrate Peter Law of the West Kowloon Magistrates’ Court on Thursday denied the bail applications of Mr Chung and Mr Lam.
Stand News was founded in 2014 as a nonprofit organisation. After Jimmy Lai’s Apple Daily was shut following similar police action, Stand News had become the most significant pro-democracy news organisation in the city.
More than 200 police officials had raided the outlet’s office on Wednesday and froze assets worth £5.8m. Hours after that, the organisation announced that it would shut down, and that all its employees would be dismissed. Its London office was also closed.
Of the seven people arrested on Wednesday, four — former democratic legislator Margaret Ng, pop star Denise Ho, Chow Tat-chi and Christine Fang — were granted bail. All four are former members of the Stand News board and have not yet been charged.
Mr Chung’s wife Chan Pui-man, who was also arrested, was already in prison on different charges. She was earlier a senior editor with Apple Daily.
The raids and subsequent arrests have invited international censure as well and reignited concerns about press freedom in Hong Kong, though the region’s chief executive Carrie Lam has claimed that the raid was not meant to suppress the media.
“Journalism is not seditious... but seditious activities could not be condoned under the guise of news reporting,” she said.
Hong Kong has been facing widespread demonstrations ever since China had introduced the National Security Law, which Beijing says it uses for national security concerns but which critics allege is to curb pro-democracy voices.
Despite calls for Hong Kong and China to stop targeting the region’s free press, Beijing has claimed that Stand News was an “out-and-out political organisation” that “kept publishing articles that incited others to use violence and even split the country”.
“Those who engage in activities that endanger national security ... under the cover of journalism are the black sheep tarnishing the press freedom and will be held accountable,” the Chinese foreign ministry’s Hong Kong office said.
Additional reporting by agencies