Citizen News, an independent online news portal in Hong Kong, posted in a statement to its website, pictured, that it will shutter operations because of what it called a “deteriorating media environment” in the Chinese-ruled city. Image courtesy Citizen News
Jan. 2 (UPI) -- Citizen News, an independent online news portal in Hong Kong founded in 2017, will shutter operations because of what it called a "deteriorating media environment" in the Chinese-ruled city.
The closure of Citizen News comes after Hong Kong police raided pro-democracy Stand News and arrested several staff members under China's national security law, enacted in 2020 to stop dissent and protests in the city.
Citizen News said in an English-language statement that the website will cease updating Tuesday and will shut down completely later.
"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.
"At the center of a brewing storm, we found ourselves in a critical situation. In the face of a crisis, we must ensure the safety and well-being of everyone who are on board."
Hong Kong, a longtime British colony, was returned to Chinese sovereignty in 1997 but has maintained separated governing powers and freedoms as a special administrative region within the communist country.
Pro-democracy activists said many of those freedoms have started to disappear since the national security law was enacted, particularly the freedom of the press.
Chinese state media issued a statement Saturday, before Citizen News announced that it would cease operations, denouncing Western countries for "slandering Hong Kong's press freedom" in the wake of the Stand News arrests.
"The arrests of people suspected of publishing seditious materials and the freeze of relevant assets by Hong Kong law enforcement are imperative to maintain law and order and safeguard peace," said a spokesperson for the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office of the State Council.
The Hong Kong official said that press freedom and freedom of speech remain "protected by law" but that "people should abide by "the law when exercising these freedoms."
The official said that the actions of Stand News journalists propagated messages supporting Hong Kong independence, which "posed a serious threat to national security and social stability."