Two Editors of Chinese Media Outlet Stand News Denied Bail for Conspiring to Publish “Seditious” content.

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On Dec. 30, a Hong Kong court refused bail to two former top editors of Stand News who were accused of conspiring to publish “seditious” content. They were among seven people detained the day before in a police crackdown on their pro-democracy news organization, which garnered international outrage.

The outlet’s former head editor, Chung Pui-kuen, was the lone defendant to appear at West Kowloon Magistrates’ Court on Thursday.

Patrick Lam, who was interim editor-in-chief at Hong Kong’s Stand News until resigning after his detention on Wednesday, had his lawyer apply for bail while he was in the hospital.

Best Pencil (Hong Kong) Limited, the company behind the now-defunct Stand News, was charged with the same offense. On Wednesday, the independent online news organization declared its closure, only hours after 200 national security agents stormed its office, froze its assets worth $7.8 million, and detained two current and former editors, as well as four former board members.

Under a colonial-era ordinance, those detained were charged with “conspiracy to publish seditious publications.”

According to local media sites, four former board members, including pop singer and activist Denise Ho, barrister Margaret Ng, and Christine Fang, were freed from police detention on Thursday afternoon. They hadn’t been charged yet.

After being re-arrested on Wednesday, Chan Pui-man, Chung’s wife and a former editor of the pro-democracy, now-defunct Apple Daily, remained in detention.

Chung and Lam’s next hearing is scheduled on February 25. They might face a sentence of up to two years in jail and a fine of up to 5,000 Hong Kong dollars ($640) if convicted.

The United States and other nations condemned the arrest and large police operation. After China’s governing communist party enacted a severe national security law last year, rights organizations expressed worry about the city’s declining press freedom.

“A confident government that is unafraid of the truth embraces a free press,” Blinken said in a statement.

The FCCHK concluded that 61 percent of those questioned were slightly concerned and 10% were extremely concerned about the “possibility of arrest or persecution from reporting or writing opinion articles.” in a study published in November.

During a daily briefing on Dec. 30, Zhao Lijian, a spokeswoman for China’s foreign ministry, defended Hong Kong police. Claiming the move “has nothing to do with freedom of press or freedom of speech” but rather to “maintain social order in Hong Kong.”

“No country, organization, or individual has the right to interfere in Hong Kong affairs,” Zhao said in response to foreign criticism.

Meanwhile, Zhao informed reporters at the briefing that the communist administration is putting penalties on five current and former US officials in retaliation for Washington’s efforts to put pressure on Beijing over the repression of democracy in Hong Kong. Former Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and Chairman of the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission Carolyn Bartholomew are among the targets.

Five deputy directors of China’s Liaison Office in Hong Kong were sanctioned by Washington on Dec. 20 for weakening democracy and freedom in the former British territory. The five Chinese officials were previously sanctioned by the US.

Unlike other mainland cities, Hong Kong formerly had journalistic freedom, which is currently safeguarded by the Basic Law, the city’s mini-constitution. When the city was transferred from British authority in 1997, the Chinese leadership vowed to protect these and other rights granted by Basic Law.

The dictatorship has implemented a number of measures over the years that have resulted in a progressive erosion of the city’s autonomy and democracy, particularly since the passage of national security laws. Since the loosely worded legislation went into force, Hong Kong police have detained over 100 pro-democracy activists, resulting in over 60 charges—mostly against democratic politicians, campaigners, journalists, and students.

Many international human rights organizations were alarmed by the arrest on Wednesday. “With these high-profile arrests, Hong Kong authorities are using the law as a weapon of censorship and forced silencing,” Julie Trébault, head of PEN America’s Artists at Risk Connection, said in a statement.

The Hong Kong authorities “weaponize Hong Kong’s legal system by invoking a colonial-era law of ‘seditious publication.” according to Amnesty International’s deputy secretary general Kyle Ward.

In response, a Hong Kong government official remarked that freedom of expression and freedom of the press “can be restricted for reasons including protection of national security.”

“Any activities jeopardizing national security will be guarded against, and any individual or entity breaching the law will be brought to justice regardless of background,” the officials stressed.

The UK office of Stand News has also closed, according to the bureau’s leader, Yeung Tin-shui, who announced the closure on his Facebook page on Thursday. Yeung also stated that he had resigned from his current post.

The injustices against Stand News happened barely six months after the collapse of Apple Daily. After 500 police invaded its newsroom, imprisoned five executives, and froze crucial assets, the popular local daily Apple Daily, which was regularly critical of the city’s leadership and the communist authorities in Beijing, printed its final edition in June. Authorities believe dozens of pieces in the newspaper may have broken national security laws.

Jimmy Lai, the creator of Apple Daily, is presently serving a 20-month sentence for participating in pro-democracy rallies in 2019. He is also awaiting trial on three charges related to national security. Lai might be sentenced to life in prison under the statute.

It should come as no surprise to anyone who pays attention to global politics that this is happening. However, one could speculate and say that tensions across the board are running higher than ever for the Chinese Communist Party. Something has got to give, America is no longer able to turn a blind eye from persecution due to the rapid spread of information in this digital age. The question remains, who will stop the CCP from committing further violations against human rights, and how much longer until that takes place?

1 Peter 4:12-14 says: “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. Stay inquisitive in the word of God, and the world around you.”

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