Stand News acting chief editor Patrick Lam Shiu-tung, second from left, is arrested by police officers in Hong Kong, Dec 29, 2021. (VINCENT YU/AP)
HONG KONG – Hong Kong police on Wednesday announced the arrest of seven people tied to the online media Stand News over an alleged conspiracy for publishing seditious publications and the freezing of HK$61 million ($7.8 million) in assets of the company – the highest-ever for national-security related cases.
The company’s acting chief editor Patrick Lam Shiu-tung, its former board member and Cantopop star Denise Ho Wan-see, former board member and barrister Margaret Ng Ngoi-yee, and former Stand News editor-in-chief Chung Pui-kuen and his wife, the former associate publisher and deputy chief editor of Apple Daily Chan Pui-man were among those arrested.
Steve Li Kwai-wah, senior superintendent of the police’s national security department, revealed that most of the funds were being transferred to the company in a stealthy way, which it is believed was done to avoid being tracked
Steve Li Kwai-wah, senior superintendent of the police’s national security department, told the media on Wednesday afternoon after the police operation that those arrested play important roles in Stand News’ editorial policy and company strategy.
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Li said the media outlet has published a series of seditious reports between July 2020 and November 2021, with the purpose of instigating dissatisfaction among the public, inciting violence and law-breaking behavior and stoking hatred against the administration of justice and the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government.
There is strong evidence to show that the media has allowed fugitives or overseas activists to use its platforms to incite subversion and separatism activities in Hong Kong and call for foreign sanctions, seriously endangering national security, Li added.
Li said these publications have stoked public hatred and hostility against the government and judiciary by making baseless accusations of the police’s enforcement and judicial decisions, which are suspected of violating section 9 and 10 of the Crimes Ordinance.
According to the ordinance, the first offence is liable to a fine of HK$5,000 and two years’ imprisonment. Any subsequence offence is liable to three years’ imprisonment upon conviction.
On Wednesday morning, over 200 uniformed and plainclothes police officers searched the media company's premise at Kwun Tong with a court warrant, seizing materials including computers, equipment and HK$500,000 in cash during the raid.
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Li revealed that the police have frozen the company’s assets of HK$61 million, the largest amount the department has ever dealt with. Li revealed that most of the funds were being transferred to the company in a stealthy way, which it is believed was done to avoid being tracked.
Li questioned how the media outlet can afford to open a bureau in the United Kingdom when the company’s website has made it clear that it will not take any sponsorship or put on a paywall. And why set up a bureau in the UK when the media outlet mainly covers Hong Kong local news, he asked.
Li said the police will trace the source of the funds and search for other potential participants in the conspiracy.