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Hong Kong police close pro-democracy outlet Stand News

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

More than 200 police officers raided the offices of a major pro-democracy news outlet in Hong Kong today.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: (Non-English language spoken).

SHAPIRO: That's the scene from when national security police shut down the website Stand News. They also arrested at least six people associated with Stand and confiscated materials.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Now, the arrested people are reportedly accused of conspiring to publish seditious material. But the Committee to Protect Journalists is calling this an assault on press freedoms.

STEVEN BUTLER: We're seeing more and more that what the authorities are doing is to stamp down on independent media.

KELLY: Steven Butler is CPJ's Asia program coordinator.

BUTLER: For the first time since the Committee to Protect Journalists has been keeping records - that's since 1992 - Hong Kong journalists are in jail in our annual survey. That's never happened before.

SHAPIRO: The senior superintendent of the Hong Kong police's National Security Department is Steve Lee. He told reporters they were not targeting media or journalists, just, quote, "national security offenses." That explanation does not sit well with Steven Butler.

BUTLER: Obviously the intent is to send a very strong message that this kind of critical coverage of the Hong Kong government and of the Chinese government is just not acceptable anymore.

KELLY: Now, the backdrop here is that last year, China introduced a controversial national security law in response to pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong. Since then, local authorities have used that law to detain journalists. Six months ago, police shut down Apple Daily, a popular pro-democracy newspaper in Hong Kong.

SHAPIRO: Of course, it's not just journalists who are now facing threats, says former lawmaker and pro-democracy activist Nathan Law. He has fled the once semi-autonomous city.

NATHAN LAW: Under the national security law, it criminalized free speech, and it prosecutes democratic activists because of what they are campaigning for - democracy.

SHAPIRO: Hong Kong police could not be immediately reached for further response.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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