‘Reporting had little to do with Stand News arrests’

Executive Councillor Ronny Tong on Thursday said the actions against Stand News “has very little to do” with its news reporting, after seven people linked to the online media outlet were arrested on sedition-related offences.

Police said they are investigating whether news articles and opinion pieces published by the group had breached the national security law, including colluding with foreign forces and promoting Hong Kong independence.

The force also froze company assets worth HK$61 million under powers granted under the national security law, and would look into the source of the company’s funding.

When asked on an RTHK programme whether these actions taken against the news outlet gave the impression the government is trying to silence its critics, Tong said: “Unfortunately, I think it does.”

“But on the other hand, no matter what your political inclination is, you cannot use it as an excuse to do something which clearly … [is] unlawful.

“What’s happened here has very little to do with news reporting, but rather, the organisers of Stand News are accused of providing a platform to allow fugitives to publish articles, which promote hatred, animosity and even violence in relation to the system in Hong Kong.”

Steve Li, senior superintendent of the force’s national security department, had told a news conference that the alleged offences, which took place between July 2020 and November 2021, involved numerous news articles and online posts said to be aimed at inciting hatred and spreading discontent.

He said some of the allegations made in these articles were unfounded, and further accused the group of allowing “fugitives” to call on foreign countries to impose sanctions against China and Hong Kong and promote independence for the SAR, which are violations of the national security law.