Staff of pro-democracy news website Stand News accused of ‘conspiracy to publish seditious publication’.
Hong Kong’s Police National Security Department said early on Wednesday it had arrested six current or former senior staff from an online media firm “for conspiracy to publish seditious publication”.
Hong Kong broadcaster TVB said the six are current or former staff from pro-democracy news website Stand News.
Police said in a statement that they had arrested three men and three women, aged 34 to 73, and that searches of their homes were underway.
Stand News said one of those arrested was Ronson Chan, its deputy assignment editor who is also the head of the Hong Kong Journalists Association.
The news site posted a video of police arriving at Chan’s residence and showing their court warrant.
“The charge was conspiracy to publish seditious publications. This is the court warrant and this is my warrant card. Your phone is obstructing our work,” an officer is seen saying.
Following months of anti-government protests in 2019, Beijing last year imposed a sweeping National Security Law in the semi-autonomous city that critics say restricts freedoms promised to the former British colony that are not found on mainland China.
The law criminalises secessionism, subversion, terrorism, and foreign collusion to intervene in the city’s affairs.
Since it was implemented in June last year, more than 100 pro-democracy supporters have been arrested under the law, and many others have fled abroad.
Earlier this year, police raided the offices of the pro-democracy publication Apple Daily, forcing it to subsequently shut down after its assets were frozen.
Apple Daily’s owner, Jimmy Lai, a staunch China critic, was also arrested and put in prison.
Earlier this month, Lai was found guilty of several charges linked to his alleged involvement in a banned vigil last year commemorating the victims of China’s 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown.
On Tuesday, police also charged Lai with sedition.
Authorities say the National Security Law has restored stability after months of often-violent pro-democracy protests.
Officials in Hong Kong and China have repeatedly said media freedoms are respected but not absolute and that they cannot endanger national security.
The latest arrests follow the removal of sculptures and other artwork from university campuses last week.
The works supported democracy and memorialised the victims of China’s crackdown on democracy protesters at Beijing’s Tiananmen Square in 1989.