(HONG KONG) — Hong Kong police were raiding the office of an online news outlet on Wednesday after arresting six people for conspiracy to publish a seditious publication.
More than 200 officers were taking part in the search, police said. They had a warrant to seize relevant journalistic materials under a national security law enacted last year.
The six were arrested early Wednesday under a colonial-era crimes ordinance for conspiracy to publish a seditious publication, and searches of their residences were underway, police said.
According to the local South China Morning Post newspaper, police arrested one current and one former editor at Stand News, as well as four former board members including singer and activist Denise Ho and former lawmaker Margaret Ng.
Police did not identify those who were arrested.
Early Wednesday, Stand News posted a video on Facebook of police officers at the home of a deputy editor, Ronson Chan, to investigate the alleged crime. Chan, who is also chair of the Hong Kong Journalists Association, was not arrested but was taken away for questioning, according to the South China Morning Post.
The arrests come as authorities crack down on dissent in the semi-autonomous Chinese city. Police charged former newspaper publisher Jimmy Lai with sedition on Tuesday. His Apple Daily newspaper shut down after its assets were frozen.
Stand News earlier this year said it would suspend subscriptions and remove most opinion pieces and columns from its website due to the national security law. Six board members had also resigned from the company.
Benedict Rogers, co-founder and CEO of the non-governmental organization Hong Kong Watch, said the arrests are “nothing short of an all-out assault on the freedom of the press in Hong Kong.”
“When a free press guaranteed by Hong Kong’s Basic Law is labelled ‘seditious,’ it is a symbol of the speed at which this once great, open, international city has descended into little more than a police state,” he said.
Wednesday’s arrests also followed the removal of sculptures and other artwork from university campuses last week. The works supported democracy and memorialized the victims of China’s crackdown on democracy protesters at Beijing’s Tiananmen Square in 1989.