Hong Kong free press in dire straits as second news outlet closes

Hong Kong's Citizen News has announced it will close down, citing safety concerns for its reporters.

Hong Kong free press in dire straits as second news outlet closes
Photograph: Hakan Nural on Unsplash.

The decision made on Monday marks the second independent operator to shut down in a week, after Stand News ceased operating after a police raid by the Chinese authorities on its HQ last Wednesday.

StandNews was raided and several of its journalists arrested on the grounds of publishing “seditious” materials, a criminal offence under colonial era laws.

Citizen News’ chief writer confirmed that the decision to close was “triggered” by the arrests at Stand News. “Those who are seen as critical or trouble makers, they are more vulnerable,” he said.

Lokman Tsui, a former assistant professor in journalism at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, told the Financial Times that the closing of independent news outlets such as StandNews and Citizen News is “a sad state of affairs.” He added, “We used to have a really robust press in Hong Kong, and it’s hard to say it’s free and robust at this point.

“This is part and parcel of this larger project…of dismantling the critical independent press in Hong Kong. [The government] has chased away and pressed all the critical outlets to shut down.”

Citizen News had a team of about 40 journalists. Its closure leaves English-language news site Hong Kong Free Press and Chinese-language as the last remaining independent news outlets in Hong Kong.

An anonymous former StandNews reporter, speaking to the Financial Times, asked: “Why has the city deteriorated so quickly to the state that even normal media outlets are not allowed to exist?”

Keith Richburg, president of Hong Kong’s Foreign Correspondents’ Club, told the Financial Times that the space for independent media in the city had shrunk and that many were doubtful over whether it was now possible to do critical reporting. “A lively society and good government depends on a critical press that questions policies,” he added.

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