Beijing nails coffin shut on dissent in Hong Kong

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Authorities in Beijing last week forced the closure of Stand News, one of the last independent news outlets in Hong Kong, and levied new charges against Apple Daily, the city’s once-biggest pro-democracy newspaper.

On Wednesday, hundreds of Hong Kong police descended onto Stand News’ offices and arrested seven people for “conspiracy to publish seditious publication.” Within hours, the news organization’s site announced it would be shutting down.

Public dissent is now all but a thing of the past there.

“Stand News’s editorial policy was to be independent and committed to safeguarding Hong Kong’s core values of democracy, human rights, freedom, the rule of law and justice,” the Web site said. “Thank you, readers, for your continued support.”

Among those arrested: top editor Patrick Lam, pop singer Denise Ho and former lawmaker Margaret Ng, the latter two former board members. Police also arrested former top editor Chung Pui-kuen, whose wife — former Apple Daily associate publisher Chan Pui-man — has been imprisoned since July.

Officials cited the city’s new national-security law for the move. John Lee, Hong Kong’s No. 2 honcho, said journalism can be used as a cover for threatening national security. But it shouldn’t be a crime to report the truth.

Last year, Beijing did the same thing to Apple Daily, conducting multiple raids and arresting several of its top editors, including founder Jimmy Lai, who has been in jail for a year this week. That forced the outlet to close.

And Tuesday, Beijing upped the ante, announcing new sedition charges against Lai, who faces up to life in prison under the new law, and six former senior employees.

While the Chinese Communist Party nails the coffin shut on dissent, its message is clear: It won’t tolerate truth or freedom in Hong Kong.

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