Mon. Jan 24th, 2022

Journalists are experiencing increasing pressure in Chinese territory with three independent media outlets closed since the introduction of security law.

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said she could not accept proposals that press freedom in the city face “extinction” as independent media outlet Citizen News closed on security fears, days after a police raid on another independent media outlet led to rioting charges against senior staff.

“I read news this morning about, due to the closure of online media, press freedom in Hong Kong is facing extinction … I just can not accept those kinds of allegations,” Lam said at her weekly press conference on Tuesday.

Citizen News announced its closure on Sunday, citing a “weakening” media environment in the former British colony and concerns about the safety of his journalists after last week’s raid on competitive publication Stand News.

Beijing has pledged to respect Hong Kong’s freedoms, including a free press, for at least 50 years when it took control of the territory in 1997, but has been accused by Western countries and legal groups of democracy erodes and freedoms, especially since the enactment of the National Security Act.

Authorities in Hong Kong and Beijing have repeatedly denied the allegations, saying the security law helped restore stability after mass protests in support of democracy in 2019.

The closure of Citizen News means three publications have now closed since the legislation was introduced at the end of June 2020.

The popular pro-democracy Apple Daily closed last year after police raids on his offices and the arrest of key personnel, including founder Jimmy Lai, who has been in jail since December 2020. The 74-year-old vocal critic from Beijing has been accused of “collaborating with a foreign power”. – an offense under the Security Act – and was slapped last week with an additional charge of rioting under a colonial-era law.

Two editors at Stand News, an independent online publication, are also facing charges of incitement to a police raid last week, the outlet’s assets froze. Several other current and former senior editors and former board members were arrested, including the popular Cantopop singer Denise Ho.

The security law criminalizes what Beijing considers acts of “secession”, “undermining”, “terrorism” and “foreign conspiracy to intervene in the city’s affairs”.

More than 100 pro-democracy supporters have so far been arrested under the law, and many others, including elected pro-democracy politicians, have fled into exile.

Beijing has also moved to revamp the area’s electoral system to ensure that only “patriots” are elected to office. The new members of the Legislative Council took their oath of allegiance to Lamb on Monday, after the December election in which turnout dropped to a record low.

A security guard stands under the Chinese national emblem before newly elected lawmakers take their oaths at the Hong Kong Legislative Council on Monday [File: Tyrone Siu/Reuters]

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