Hong Kong Stand News Arrests and Closure

Website banner the former Stand News based in Hong Kong, which was shut down December 29, 2021, after a governmental raid of their offices resulted in the arrest of several current and former staff members as well as the confiscation of records and several computers in the publication’s offices.

By Jenco Mackey

U.S. Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken released the following statement regarding the Hong Kong government’s December 29 raid noting the arrest of seven senior staff at Stand News has forced yet another of the few remaining bastions of free and independent media in Hong Kong to cease operations. 

“Journalism is not sedition.  We call on PRC and Hong Kong authorities to cease targeting Hong Kong’s free and independent media and to immediately release those journalists and media executives who have been unjustly detained and charged,” Secretary Blinken said.

“Freedom of expression, including media freedom, and access to information provided by an independent media are critical to prosperous and secure societies,” Secretary Blinken added.  “These freedoms enabled Hong Kong to flourish as a global center for finance, trade, education, and culture.  By silencing independent media, PRC and local authorities undermine Hong Kong’s credibility and viability.  A confident government that is unafraid of the truth embraces a free press.”

A translated announcement on the publication’s website read in part “The police arrested a number of senior and former senior personnel of the company this morning (29th), took away many people to assist in the investigation, and seized a number of computers and some documents from the position press office. As the case may be, position news will cease to operate immediately, including the website and all social media, and will be removed within the day. The editor-in-chief Lin Shaotong has resigned, and all the staff of position news have been immediately dismissed.

According to Wikipedia, Stand News (Chinese: 立場新聞) was a free, non-profit online news website based in Hong Kong, from 2014 to 2021. Founded in December 2014, it was the successor of House News. It primarily focused on social and political issues in Hong Kong, and generally took a pro-democracy editorial position.

Stand News was ranked highest in credibility among online news media in Hong Kong in two public opinion surveys conducted by the Chinese University of Hong Kong in 2016 and 2019.[1][2]

On 29 December 2021, amid the backdrop of increasing government suppression of news media following the 2020 enactment of the Hong Kong national security law, Stand News was raided by the Hong Kong Police Force, who arrested senior staff and froze the company’s assets. As a result, similarly to Apple Daily earlier the same year, Stand News was forced to dismiss its staff and cease operations.[3]

Stand News was founded after the closure of House News in July 2014. Instead of running the website as a limited company like House News, the owner company of the website, Best Pencil (Hong Kong) Limited, is legally managed by a trust company, while prohibiting any transfer of shares.[4]

Following the forced closure of Apple Daily on 24 June 2021, the organisation announced precautionary measures, citing “security concerns”. While it vowed to continue publishing, it said that it would pre-emptively take off line all non-news items, such as commentaries and op-eds. Stating that giving their current finances would allow operations to continue for 9 to 12 months, they would cease to accept sponsorships or subscriptions to prevent money “going to waste”. Six of the board’s eight members resigned.”[5] [6]

The organisation also participated in the Pandora Papers leaks in October 2021.

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