Hong Kong news outlet to close amid crackdown on dissent

Citizen News is the third news outlet to close in recent months

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A Hong Kong online news site has said it will cease operations in light of deteriorating press freedom, just days after police raided a separate pro-democracy news outlet and arrested seven people for sedition.

Citizen News announced its decision in a Facebook post on Sunday. It said it would stop updating its site on January 4, and would be shuttered after that.

“We have always loved this land, but at present, we are helpless as we are not only facing wind and rain, but tornadoes and huge waves,” it said in a statement.

“We have never forgotten our original intentions, but it is a pity that the rapid changes in society in the past two years and the deterioration of the media environment have prevented us from achieving our ideals without worry.”

Police are seen outside the Stand News office building, after six people were arrested "for conspiracy to publish seditious publication" according to Hong Kong's Police National Security Department, in Hong Kong, China
Police are seen outside the Stand News office building, after six people were arrested "for conspiracy to publish seditious publication" according to Hong Kong's Police National Security Department, in Hong Kong, China

Citizen News is the third news outlet to close in recent months, following pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily and the online site Stand News. Authorities have moved to silence dissent in the semi-autonomous city, once known as a hub for vibrant media outlets, after Beijing implemented a sweeping national security law following massive pro-democracy protests in 2019.

"Regrettably, the rapid changes in society and worsening environment for media make us unable to achieve our goal fearlessly. Amid this crisis, we have to first make sure everyone on the boat is safe," Citizen News, which was established in 2017, said in a statement.

In its description on Facebook, Citizen News says it has no party affiliation and aims to promote Hong Kong's core values such as freedom, openness, diversity and inclusion.

The announcement of the impending closure of Citizen News comes just days after authorities raided Stand News and arrested seven people — including editors and former board members — for allegedly conspiring to publish seditious material. Stand News announced on the same day that it would cease to operate.

Two of Stand News’ former editors were later formally charged with sedition.

In December, the opposition was shut out from elections under a new law that puts all candidates to a loyalty test, and monuments commemorating the bloody 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown in Beijing were taken down.

The US and other western government have condemned diminishing press and civil freedoms, which Beijing promised to uphold for 50 years following Hong Kong’s 1997 handover from Britain.

Hong Kong’s chief executive, Carrie Lam, last week defended the raid on Stand News, telling reporters that “inciting other people … could not be condoned under the guise of news reporting.”