(Bloomberg) -- Hong Kong online media portal Citizen News announced it will shutter Tuesday, the third pro-democracy outlet to fold in six months as national security police probe journalists in the former British colony.
“At the center of a brewing storm, we found ourself in a critical situation,” the outlet wrote in a statement late Sunday. “In the face of a crisis, we must ensure the safety and well-being of everyone who is on board.”
“We announced with a heavy heart that Citizen News will cease operation starting from Jan. 4, 2022,” it added. “Our website will stop updates and will shut down later.”
The announcement comes days after pro-democracy media outlet Stand News collapsed under a national security investigation that saw 200 officers raid its newsroom, seven people arrested and its assets frozen. Six months earlier, the city’s largest independent news source, Apple Daily, also shut under an intense police probe that left it unable to pay staff.
Hong Kong has gone from being one of Asia’s freest media markets to one of its most regulated since Beijing implemented a national security law in June 2020. Dozens of activists and media professionals have been arrested under that law, and authorities have also begun charging journalists under a colonial-era sedition law that can jail a writer for up to two years.
Citizen News had come under official pressure in recent months. The Hong Kong government issued a statement in October accusing the portal of “misleading” readers that Security Secretary Chris Tang had “refused to guarantee” freedom of speech under possible future legislation.
The Communist Party’s Global Times newspaper wrote Monday that Citizen News had published articles “harshly criticizing the central government and also the Communist Party of China.” It cited as evidence the outlet’s description of the CCP as a “dictatorship” that abused power.
Citizen News said in its statement that it had been founded “against the backdrop of growing worries about Hong Kong’s press freedom” on Jan. 1, 2017, and since gone on to employ dozens of reporters.
“We have never forgotten our original intent,” it said. “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.”
©2022 Bloomberg L.P.
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