China has taken another step toward quelling press freedoms in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong police shut down a local news outlet challenging Chinese propaganda, claiming they were promoting "seditious" content.

"[Hong Kong police] arrested six senior staff members or former senior staff members of an online media company this morning (December 29) for conspiracy to publish seditious publication," the police stated on Wednesday.


The six individuals, each employed at the pro-democracy news site Stand News, were arrested after police raided its office and froze its assets, reports Reuters. The site later announced on Facebook that it is "now stopping operations" and that all employees have been dismissed.

Those arrested include Stand News acting editor-in-chief Patrick Lam as well as former board members Denise Ho and Margaret Ng. Stand News's deputy assignment editor Ronson Chan was also brought in for questioning, reports the South China Morning Post, although Chan was released after.

Police claim that Stand News had published many articles that stirred up hatred for the Chinese government and judiciary. Hong Kong's No. 2 official, Chief Secretary John Lee Ka-Chiu, claims that anyone who used media reporting for illegal political purposes was a "rotten apple," reports SCMP.

"Professional media workers should recognize these are the bad apples who are abusing their positions simply by wearing a false coat of a media worker, and then using that position [to] abuse news as a tool to pursue their own purposes," Ka-Chiu said in a statement. "They will pollute press freedom. They are the people who damage press freedom."

"These arrests are nothing short of an all-out assault on the freedom of the press in Hong Kong," said Hong Kong Watch co-founder Benedict Rogers in a statement. "Coming just one day after Jimmy Lai and six former Apple Daily journalists received similar charges. When a free press guaranteed by Hong Kong's Basic Law is labeled 'seditious,' it is a symbol of the speed at which this once great open international city has descended into little more than a police state."


Rogers encouraged the United Kingdom, which had previously owned Hong Kong until 1997, to "act decisively" and punish Hong Kong officials with "targeted sanctions."

Stand News was initially founded by tycoon Jimmy Lai in 2014 as a nonprofit group providing a pro-democracy perspective in Hong Kong and was popular among protesters. Stand News was the last news outlet left from Lai's media empire, most well known for running the Apple Daily tabloid, which Hong Kong police shut down in June. Lai was convicted and charged for participating in a banned gathering remembering the 1989 Tienanmen Square protests.