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PoliticsHong Kong

Hong Kong's Citizen News cites media crackdown in closure

January 3, 2022

Pro-democracy news site Citizen News said its decision to shut down came in response to the recent closure of Stand News. It is the third pro-democracy publication to cease operations in recent months.

Citizen News' founder and chief writer Chris Yeung, right, and chief editor Daisy Li, second right, pose before a press conference outside their office in Hong Kong Monday, Jan. 3, 2022.
Citizen News said it will stop posting updates on its site from January 4Image: Vincent Yu/AP Photo/picture alliance

Hong Kong's online news publication Citizen News said its decision to shut operations was due to the closure of another pro-democracy news outlet, Stand News. 

Citizen News had announced on Sunday that it would stop posting updates on January 4, and would shut down operations thereafter. 

"The decision was made within a short period of time. The trigger point was the fate of Stand News," the publication's chief writer Chris Yeung told reporters. "We could not rule out that [...] we might be exposed to some risks." 

Sinking media 'lifeboats'

Prominent pro-democracy site Stand News closed operations last week after 200 police officers raided its newsroom and froze its assets.

Seven people were arrested on suspicion of conspiring to publish seditious material. Two former editors were later formally charged with sedition.

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam had defended the raid on Stand News, saying "inciting other people could not be condoned under the guise of news reporting."

Established in 2017, Citizen News described itself as independent, with no party affiliation and promoting freedom, openness, diversity and inclusion. It had 40 employees.

"We have never forgotten our original intent. Sadly, we can no longer strive to turn our beliefs into reality without fear because of the sea change in the society over the past two years and the deteriorating media environment," Citizen News said in a statement on Monday. 

After newspaper Apple Daily and online news website Stand News, this is the third pro-democracy publication to shut down in recent months.

"For Hong Kong's journalists, Stand News and Citizen News had become 'lifeboats', along with inMedia, they were the only independent Chinese language news outlets still standing in Hong Kong," former Hong Kong reporter Yuen Chan told DW.

Chan currently teaches journalism at City, University of London, and has previously taught at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. 

"In many ways, today’s announcement is not a surprise — it was a matter of time," she told DW. "But the speed at which these events have occurred — in a matter of months — is brutal."

China holds a 'patriots only'

Last month, the special administrative region of China held a "patriots only" election, under which only candidates who passed a loyalty test could contest elections. The same month also saw monuments commemorating the Tiananmen protests of 1989 being taken down at several Hong Kong universities.

After mass pro-democracy protests in 2019, Beijing imposed the controversial national security law in Hong Kong, with a harsh crackdown on dissent.

Critics say Beijing's approach to Hong Kong in recent years has made a mockery of assurances of a continued special status given when China reclaimed control of the port city from Britain in 1997.  

DW's William Yang in Tapei contributed to this report

tg/msh (AP, Reuters)