Independent Hong Kong News Site To Close Over Safety Concerns Amid National Security Crackdown

Citizen News said that it will cease operations from Tuesday in the face of a “deteriorating media environment,” becoming the third news outlet to shut down in recent months as Hong Kong’s national security police have ramped up pressure on the city’s once-vibrant media industry. 

The independent news outlet announced its decision on social media on Sunday evening, saying the changes in Hong Kong society over the past two years have made it impossible for the company to perform its journalistic duties.

Citizen News Chief Editor Daisy Li said in a press conference that sometimes even she can’t determine whether an article or comment contravenes the law.

“At the center of a brewing storm, we found ourselves in a critical situation,” Citizen News wrote in its statement. “In the face of a crisis, we must ensure the safety and well-being of everyone who is on board.” The outlet also said that it would stop updating its website and will shut it down after “a period of time.”

Citizen News was founded in 2017 by a group of veteran journalists in Hong Kong with capital raised through a crowdfunding campaign. It was accused by the government in October of publishing a “misleading” report about Secretary for Security Chris Tang “refusing to guarantee” freedom of speech under a new security legislation that has yet to be adopted.  

China’s official mouthpiece Global Times also wrote on Monday that Citizen News had published articles that “harshly criticized” the central government and the Chinese Communist Party. It cited a Citizen News’ report in June that referred the Communist leadership as a “dictatorship” that “abused its power” in its governance of Hong Kong.

The closure of Citizen News marks the third media outlet to cease operations following Beijing’s enactment of a national security law last year that punishes acts of secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces.

MORE FROM FORBESHong Kong Pro-Democracy News Site Shuts Down After National Security Police Arrest Executives And Freeze Assets

Stand News, a pro-democracy media site, closed down last week after seven people connected to the company, including senior executives, were arrested by national security police for “conspiracy to publish seditious publications.” The company’s office was raided by more than 200 officers and $7.8 million of its assets were frozen. 

Western governments and rights groups have condemned the arrests as a crackdown on Hong Kong’s press freedom that was supposed to be upheld for 50 years after the city was returned to Chinese rule. Hong Kong’s chief executive, Carrie Lam, denied that there had been any “suppression” on press freedom in the city. 

Apple Daily, the pro-democracy newspaper founded by Jimmy Lai, also had to close after several of its top editors were arrested under the national security law. Lai, who is already in jail awaiting trial on national security and fraud charges, was slapped with an additional sedition charge last week.