Another light of the former pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong flickered out this week. Following in the footsteps of Apple Daily and Stand News, the online information site Citizen News announced that it would be going dark tomorrow on January 4th. The announcement was made on their Facebook page, with a disheartening graphic that simply says “Thank you and so long.” The editors of the site blamed the closure on “hurricanes and tsunamis” of government oppression and a “deteriorating media environment.” Given what has happened to the editors of other former pro-democracy outlets, it’s hard to blame them for throwing in the towel. Unfortunately, there are now almost no media outlets left in Hong Kong where pro-democracy voices can be heard. (Associated Press)
A Hong Kong online news site said Sunday that it will cease operations in light of deteriorating press freedoms, days after police raided and arrested seven people for sedition at a separate pro-democracy news outlet.
Citizen News announced its decision in a Facebook post Sunday. It said it would stop updating its site on Jan. 4, and it would be shuttered after that.
“We all love this place, deeply. Regrettably, what was ahead of us is not just pouring rains or blowing winds, but hurricanes and tsunamis,” it said in a statement.
At this point, nearly all of the senior management of Apple Daily is in prison, either awaiting trial on various trumped-up charges of sedition or having already been convicted. The editors of Stand News are similarly locked up and have also been charged with sedition. It’s not a sure bet that the editors of Citizen News will escape the CCP’s wrath simply because they shut down voluntarily before the stormtroopers showed up.
When asked about the recent raids, Hong Kong Leader Carrie Lam told the remaining members of the (pro-Beijing) press, “inciting other people … could not be condoned under the guise of news reporting.” So at this point, saying or writing anything that conflicts with the dictates of the Chinese Communist Party is considered both “incitement” and “sedition.” Lam also denied any effort by the government to target the media. Instead, she claims that the city is simply protecting “national security.”
The press isn’t the only area where freedom continues to take a beating in Hong Kong. One well-known restaurant, the Moon Palace, was recently identified as the hub of a local outbreak of the Omicron variant. Rather than receiving a visit from health officials, the owners of the eatery found the police knocking at their doors. They were informed that everyone on the staff there, as well as all of the customers who had been there recently, were all to report for mandatory COVID testing. Customers were tracked down using their credit card information and a government-developed app created for mandatory contact tracing. A failure to comply and submit their test results would result in detention.
As so often happens under systems such as this, businesses have been taking notice. The one thing that made Hong Kong so successful for such a long time was the fact that it was a hub of capitalism and the city offered a very business-friendly environment. But now that the CCP is cracking down, more and more businesses are looking at plans to move elsewhere. And that trend is definitely having an effect. On the first day of trading of the new year, Hong Kong’s stock benchmark fell to its worst opening in years.
This is the new face of Hong Kong, heading toward repression and strict authoritarian rule. Individual success is discouraged in favor of the dominance of the state. Any pro-democracy advocates who remain in the city should get out while leaving is still possible. It’s sad to say, but the battle is lost.