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In Hong Kong, colonial-era sedition laws are being used to attack independent journalism

Hong Kong has never been a democracy, but it was home to a vibrant media scene and enjoyed the free flow of information. No more. The National Security Law, unilaterally imposed by Beijing in 2020, cracked down on protest and effectively outlaws dissent.

This law chilled free speech and forced the closure of the city’s sole pro-democracy newspaper, Apple Daily, in June 2021. Then, three days before the end of 2021, the city’s largest independent online media outlet, Stand News, came to a sudden end too.

Local national security police arrested seven former directors, columnists and editors of the outlet, which had never hidden its pro-democracy views, for alleged “conspiracy of publishing seditious publication”. Company materials were seized and its financial assets frozen. The current and former editor-in-chief were criminally charged, and the outlet shut down its website and social media accounts and erased all its online content.

Amid growing self-censorship, independent digital media outlets like Stand News offered a space for more critical reporting and opinion. Stand News regularly provided in-depth coverage of issues and individuals that were given short shrift or ignored in the mainstream media. The platform was funded mostly through monthly donations and crowdfunding.

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Soon after Apple Daily closed, Stand News had taken preemptive action in response to what it called “the arrival of the literary inquisition” in Hong Kong. The outlet…

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