U.S., Canada Condemn Arrest, Sedition Charges Against 2 Hong Kong Journalists

The arrests of two journalists in Hong Kong have drawn scrutiny from the West.

Officials conducted a raid on pro-democracy news outlet Stand News, resulting in the arrests of former editors Chung Pui-kuen and Patrick Lam, who were charged with conspiracy to publish a seditious publication. The arrests have been called out by the United States and Canada as infringing upon the rights of journalists.

"Freedom of expression, including media freedom, and access to information provided by an independent media are critical to prosperous and secure societies," said U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken in a statement. "These freedoms enabled Hong Kong to flourish as a global center for finance, trade, education, and culture."

Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs Mélanie Joly also spoke out about the recent arrests. Also recently detained was Canadian activist and Stand News board member Denise Ho.

"Freedom of media and expression remain cornerstones of democracy and essential to the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms," Joly tweeted on Tuesday. "We will continue to speak out and denounce violations of these freedoms, in partnership with our international allies."

Stand News began in 2014 as a nonprofit publication promoting democratic values. Crackdowns on democratic newspapers such as Stand began over concerns for national security, culminating in the closure of Apple Daily earlier this year.

Stand announced after the Wednesday raid that it would be closing down.

Stand News Offices
Media gather outside the offices of Stand News in Hong Kong on December 29, 2021, after police raided the office of the local media outlet and arrested six current and former staff. Two former staff members, Chung Pui-kuen and Patrick Lam, have been charged with conspiracy to publish sedition, leading to outcry from the U.S. and Canada. Photo by Daniel Suen/AFP via Getty Images

Police also said they would prosecute the company for sedition.

The cases were brought to West Kowloon court on Thursday, police said in a statement. Lam was not present in court because he was in the hospital. Both were denied bail.

Chan Pui-man, a former editor at the pro-democracy Apple Daily newspaper and Chung's wife, was also arrested. Apply Daily was forced to cease operations earlier this year after its publisher, Jimmy Lai, and top editors were arrested and its assets frozen.

The seven were arrested on Wednesday under a crime ordinance that dates from Hong Kong's days as a British colony before 1997, when it was returned to China with a promise from Beijing that it would keep Western-style freedoms for 50 years. If convicted, they could face up to two years in prison and a fine of up to 5,000 Hong Kong dollars ($640).

"Journalism is not sedition, but seditious acts and activities and inciting other people through other acts and activities could not be condoned under the guise of news reporting," Carrie Lam, the Hong Kong leader, told a news conference. "It should be very clear what is reporting of news, and what is seditious acts or activities to undermine national security."

The United States has also sanctioned five Hong Kong-based Chinese officials following legislative council elections in the city earlier this month for reducing Hong Kong's autonomy and freedoms.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said at a daily briefing Thursday that China will respond by imposing countermeasures on five Americans, including former Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission President Carolyn Bartholomew.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Denise Ho
Canadian activist and music star Denise Ho is released from Western Police Station after more than twenty-four hours in custody Thursday, Dec. 30. 2021. Hong Kong police arrested her Wednesday in relation to colonial-era charges of sedition, because she was connected to Stand News, which closed Wednesday after police raided its office and arrested its senior staff. AP Photo/Vincent Yu