US calls on China, Hong Kong to release Stand News staff

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US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Wednesday led the international condemnation of the latest shutdown of a pro-democracy outlet in Hong Kong, saying it damaged the reputation of the Chinese-run financial center.

“By silencing the independent media, the PRC and local authorities are undermining the credibility and viability of Hong Kong,” Blinken said, referring to the People’s Republic of China.

“A confident government that is not afraid of the truth embraces a free press.”

Police in Hong Kong, where Beijing has tightened control, broke into the offices of Stand News on Wednesday, seizing phones, computers and documents and taking its editor-in-chief.

Stand News later said it was going to cease operations immediately.

“Journalism is not sedition,” Blinken said.

“We call on the authorities in the PRC and Hong Kong to stop targeting the free and independent media in Hong Kong and immediately release journalists and media officials who have been wrongfully detained and charged. “

Hong Kong has long served as both a key financial hub and a regional center for international media, but China’s growing crackdown has left a chill in the back.

China imposed a draconian security law following massive and sometimes violent protests against encroachments from Beijing, which promised to allow a separate system when Britain returned the colony to the mainland in 1997.

In June, authorities shut down another critical outlet, Apple Daily, after its assets were seized under the National Security Act.

International tumult

Latest arrests come under British colonial-era law for ‘conspiracy to publish seditious publication’, with police accusing Stand News of articles and blog posts inciting hatred towards the government from Hong Kong.

Among those arrested were editor-in-chief Patrick Lam and Hong Kong pop star Denise Ho, a board member who resigned in June.

Canadian Foreign Minister Melanie Joly also denounced the arrests, in particular of Ho, who was born in Hong Kong but raised in Canada.

“We are deeply concerned about the arrests in Hong Kong of current and former members of the board and staff of Stand News, including Canadian citizen and activist Denise Ho,” Joly said.

European Union spokesman Peter Stano wrote earlier on Twitter that the raid and arrests marked “a further deterioration of the #PressFreedom” in the city.

The Society of Professional Journalists, an American group that promotes free speech and ethical standards, has expressed solidarity with Stand News.

“We call on the Hong Kong government to respect the 1997 treaty and end its persecution of journalists who do what free and independent journalists are supposed to do – hold public figures to account …” says @DKubiske of @SPJ_IC https: / /t.co/9mESCjdjXQ

– Society of Professional Journalists (@spj_tweets) December 30, 2021 international community of the group.

The United States has already imposed sanctions on the Hong Kong rulers and reduced the territory’s separate status in US regulations in hopes of changing Beijing’s behavior.

The Chinese crackdown in Hong Kong is one of many issues that have drawn sharp American criticism and fueled tensions between the world’s largest economies.

Washington led a diplomatic boycott of next year’s Winter Olympics in Beijing over what it considers genocide against the predominantly Muslim Uyghur people.

The United States has also accused China of unfair trade policies and endangering security through its authoritarian actions in the South China Sea and East China Sea.

(AFP)

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