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Hong Kong police raid pro-democracy media Stand News, arrest 7

HONG KONG, Dec 30: Hong Kong police on Wednesday raided the offices of the pro-democracy news website, Stand News, and arrested seven staff from the site’s headquarters. Subsequently, the site announced that it shuts down with immediate effect and all the employees were dismissed.

There were 200 police officers in the raiding team. The arrests were made on the charge of "seditious publications." The arrested included three men and four women, aged 34-73. Former Democratic legislator Margaret Ng, pop singer Denise Ho, Chow Tat-chi, Christine Fang, former Chief Editor Chung Pui-kuen and acting Chief Editor Patrick Lam were among them.

Ronson Chan, Stand News deputy assignment editor and the head of the Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA), said his computer, mobile, tablet, press pass and bank records were confiscated from his home.

The raid is the latest incident of crackdown on the freedom of the press, raising the level of concern among international fora over repression by China. "Stand News is now stopping operations," the publication said on Facebook, adding all employees had been dismissed.

Steve Li, head of the police national security department, told reporters Stand News had published news and commentary inciting hatred against authorities. He said Li said assets worth HK$61 million ($7.82 million), computers, phones and journalistic materials were seized in the raid.

"Anybody who attempts to make use of media work as a tool to pursue their political purpose or other interests countering the law, particularly offences that endanger national security, they are the evil element that damages press freedom," Hong Kong Chief Secretary John Lee told reporters.

Stand News was set up in 2014 as a no-profit organisation. It was a prominent pro-democracy publication in Hong Kong. Jailed tycoon Jimmy Lai's Apple Daily tabloid was also closed recently.

The UN Human Rights Office said it was alarmed at the "extremely rapid closing of the civic space and outlets for Hong Kong’s civil society to speak and express themselves freely". Germany too has protested.

Hong Kong is a former British colony which came under Chinese rule in 1997.

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