Hong Kong: CitizenNews closes days after Stand News raid

Hong Kong’s independent news organisation CitizenNews ceased operations on January 4 due to concerns for staff safety. It came less than one week after another independent online news outlet, Stand News, shut down after its newsroom was raided by the police and seven people were arrested over “seditious publications." The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) expresses deep concern over the Hong Kong government’s crackdown on independent media.

CitizenNews chief editor Daisy Li (L) and chief writer Chris Yeung (R) attend a press conference at the company's office in Hong Kong on January 3, 2022. Credit: Bertha WANG/ AFP

On January 2, CitizenNews announced that it would cease operations starting January 4. It said its website would no longer publish new content and would eventually shut down some time later. 

The decision was made with “a heavy heart,” the new outlet said in a statement, adding it must “ensure the safety and well-being of everyone who are on board” during “the deteriorating media environment.” 

At a press conference on January 3, CitizenNews chief writer Chris Yeung Kin-hing, who was also the former chairman of the Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA), said the decision to end its five-year reporting operation was prompted by the police crackdown on Stand News a few days ago, as it was impossible to know where the authorities’ red lines were. 

Yeung added that no law enforcement agencies had approached CitizenNews yet, but there were sources suggesting that other online media platforms could be targeted. According to the outlet’s Editor-in-chief Daisy Li Yuet-wah, approximately 40 employees were laid off according to Hong Kong’s labour law. 

The closure of CitizenNews came just six days after the Hong Kong police raided Stand News’ newsroom and arrested seven individuals over “conspiracy to publish seditious publication” under Section 9 and 10 of the Crimes Ordinance. Following the police action on December 29, 2021, Stand News announced its closure, drawing an end to its seven-year operation in the city.  

CitizenNews also became the third major media outlet popular among pro-democracy activists and supporters to have shut down within eight months due to the city's clamping down on independent media. Apple Daily, the flagship newspaper of Next Digital founded by the jailed media tycoon, Jimmy Lai, was forced to close in June 2021 after police raided the company’s newsroom, froze its assets and detained seven of its executives and senior staff under the draconian National Security Law. 

The IFJ said, “Freedom of the press is enshrined in the Hong Kong’s Basic Law but the city’s authorities have ramped up their campaign to attack press freedom, oppress independent media organisations and quell critical voices on national security grounds. The IFJ calls on the authorities to stop targeting media companies and their employees and preserve freedom of expression in Hong Kong.” 

For further information contact IFJ Asia - Pacific on [email protected]

The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 140 countries

Twitter: @ifjasiapacific, on Facebook: IFJAsiaPacific and Instagram