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

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

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

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

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

Stand News later said it would cease operations immediately.

“Journalism is not sedition,” Blinken said.

“We call on the authorities of the People’s Republic of China and Hong Kong to stop attacking Hong Kong’s free and independent media and to immediately release the journalists and media executives who have been detained and charged. unfairly “.

Hong Kong has long been a key financial center and regional hub for international media, but China’s mounting crackdown has caused chills.

China imposed a draconian security law after massive and sometimes violent protests against invasions from Beijing, which had 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 national security law.

International uproar

The most recent arrests occurred under a British colonial-era law for “conspiracy to publish seditious publications,” with police accusing Stand News of articles and blog posts inciting hatred towards the Hong Kong government.

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, including those of Ho, who was born in Hong Kong but grew up 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 previously wrote on Twitter that the raid and arrests marked “further deterioration of #PressFreedom” in the city.

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

“We call on the Hong Kong government to abide by the 1997 treaty and end the 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

“SPJ supports our courageous colleagues in Hong Kong who continue to believe in the right of news organizations to be free from government control,” said Dan Kubiske, the group’s international community co-chair.

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

China’s crackdown in Hong Kong is one of several problems that has drawn harsh criticism in the United States and has fueled tensions between the world’s largest economies.

Washington has spearheaded a diplomatic boycott of next year’s Winter Olympics in Beijing for what it views as genocide against the mostly Muslim Uighur people.

The United States has also accused China of unfair trade policies and endangering security through its assertive moves in the South China Sea and East China Sea, where disputes abound.

(AFP)

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