Over the past year, pressure from the CCP-backed Hong Kong administration has led to the shutdown of several media outlets. The latest to close shop is Citizen News which recently announced that it will stop updating its site on Jan. 4 and will cease all operations. In a statement, the media outlet stated that its decision to close is to ensure the safety and security of its employees. Citizen News was founded in 2017.
“We all love this place, deeply. Regrettably, what was ahead of us is not just pouring rains or blowing winds, but hurricanes and tsunamis… 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 the statement.
Chris Yeung, the founder and chief writer at Citizen News, said Citizen News shut down due to the recent action taken by Hong Kong authorities against the pro-democracy outlet Stand News.
On Dec. 29, Stand News’ offices were raided by 200 police officers from the city’s National Security Department. Seven former and current staff members were arrested on the charge of “conspiracy to publish seditious publications.”
The six individuals included three men and three women aged between 34 and 73. Two were formally charged with sedition and have been denied bail. Hours after the arrests were made, Stand News declared that it was ending operations and dismissed all staff members.
Yeung stated that Citizen News tried its best not to infringe the law. However, it can no longer “clearly grasp the lines of law enforcement.” Though Citizen News has not been contacted by authorities, there reportedly are indications that the outlet was the administration’s next target.
“What we understood about press freedom has changed a lot… What’s the line between, say, freedom and what the government has always emphasized responsibilities or obligations like upholding national security, public order, etc.,” Yeung told NPR.
Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA) stated that it was “deeply saddened” by the loss of Citizen News. Ronson Chan, the president of the association, expressed worries that the closure of Stand News and Citizen News might trigger a series of media shutdowns in Hong Kong.
While speaking to The Epoch Times, Chan said that it is possible Hong Kong might witness a “disaster of press freedom.” Chan was a former employee at Stand News and was among those arrested on Dec. 29. He was released a few hours after the arrest. Yeung is a former president of HKJA.
“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… In many ways, today’s announcement is not a surprise — it was a matter of time… But the speed at which these events have occurred — in a matter of months — is brutal,” former Hong Kong reporter Yuen Chan told DW.
Last week, Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam justified the raid on Stand News. She insisted that the media outlet was somehow involved in “inciting other people,” an action that cannot be condoned “under the guise of news reporting.”
Other remaining independent pro-democracy media outlets in the city include Initium and Hong Kong Free Press. Last August, Initium had to shift its headquarters to Singapore.