Vincent Yu / AP
HONG KONG (AP) – Hong Kong police formally charged two people at pro-democracy online media with sedition on Thursday, a day after the outlet announced it would cease operations following a raid police in his office and seven arrests.
National Security Police said they charged two men, aged 34 and 52, with one count each of conspiring to publish a seditious publication, but did not identify them.
According to local media, they are Chung Pui-kuen and Patrick Lam, editors of Stand News, a pro-democracy online media outlet.
Police also said they would sue the company for sedition.
Chung and Lam were taken to West Kowloon court on Thursday, police said in a statement.
The rest of those arrested were held for further questioning. Besides Chung and Lam, four other former Stand News board members, including singer Denise Ho and former lawmaker Margaret Ng, were arrested on Wednesday. Ho was released from custody on Thursday afternoon.
Chan Pui-man, former editor of the pro-democracy Apple Daily newspaper and wife of Chung, was also arrested.
The seven were arrested under a crime ordinance that dates from Hong Kong’s time as a British colony before 1997 when it was returned to China. Those found guilty could face up to two years in prison and a fine of up to 5,000 Hong Kong dollars ($ 640).
Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam told a press conference on Thursday that the arrests were not targeting the media.
“Journalism is not sedition, but seditious acts and activities and the incitement of other people by other acts and activities cannot be tolerated under the guise of reporting,” she said.
“It should be very clear what news reporting is and what seditious acts or activities aimed at undermining national security are.”
His comments came after US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken called on Hong Kong authorities to release the detainees.
“Freedom of expression, including media freedom, and access to information provided by independent media are essential for prosperous and secure societies. These freedoms have enabled Hong Kong to flourish as a global center. finance, commerce, education and culture, ”Blinken said. in a report.
“By silencing the independent media, (Chinese) and local authorities are undermining the credibility and viability of Hong Kong. A confident government that is not afraid of the truth embraces a free press.”
The United States also sanctioned five Hong Kong-based Chinese officials following the city’s legislative council elections earlier this month for curtailing Hong Kong’s autonomy and freedoms.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told a daily briefing Thursday that China would respond by imposing countermeasures on five Americans, including former Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and President of the United States. the Chinese-US Economic and Security Review Commission Carolyn Bartholomew.
Canadian Foreign Minister Melanie Joly tweeted on Wednesday that her country was “deeply concerned about the arrests in Hong Kong of current and former members of the Booth News board and staff, including Canadian citizen and activist Denise Ho “.
“Freedom of the media and of expression remain the cornerstones of democracy and essential for the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms,” she said. “We will continue to speak out and denounce violations of these freedoms, in partnership with our international allies.
Stand News said on Wednesday it was ceasing operations and laid off all its staff.
The arrests and the raid on Stand News come as authorities crack down on dissent in the semi-autonomous Chinese city.
Hong Kong police previously raided the offices of the former Apple Daily, seizing boxes of hardware and computer hard drives to aid their investigation and freezing millions of assets, which subsequently resulted in forced the newspaper to cease operations.