Update: HK Citizen News' fate on heels of Stand News shows no room for anti-govt media to defy constitutional order: experts
Published: Jan 03, 2022 12:11 AM Updated: Jan 04, 2022 12:02 AM
The street view of Hong Kong Photo: VCG

The street view of Hong Kong Photo: VCG

Hong Kong's online news outlet, Citizen News, is scheduled to stop operations on Tuesday, a decision that was made following the shutdown of Stand News. While the chief writer and editor of Citizen News claimed on Monday that the decision was made over concerns on whether future coverage would violate the law, observers said the ambiguous stance cannot disguise the fact that Citizen News has played a notorious role in instigating social divergence and defying the constitutional order of Hong Kong. 

Chris Yeung, chief writer of Citizen News, told reporters on Monday that the decision was made following the fate of Stand News, whose senior staff were arrested under suspicion of publishing seditious materials, local media reported on Monday. Citizen News' chief editor added that the decision of shutting down the site was also made because its senior staff could not decide whether one report or one word would violate the law or not, the media reports said. 

Hong Kong's online news site Citizen News announced on Sunday night that the online site will stop operating from January 4, a decision which came three days after the shutdown of the Stand News as experts and policy advisors urged that media groups in Hong Kong should be further regulated instead of becoming anti-China political tools in name of a free press. 

In a statement published on its Facebook account on Sunday night, Hong Kong Citizen News bid farewell to its readers saying that the news site will stop operating starting from Tuesday, and its website will also stop being updated, and will be shut down soon.  

Most media outlets criticizing the HKSAR government are not worried about whether they could be held accountable for violating the law, as constructive criticism of the government is a common practice, Lau Siu-kai, Vice President of the Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macao Studies, told the Global Times on Monday. 

"However, what Citizen News is concerned about is clearly that the site has engaged in defying or slandering Hong Kong's constitutional order, which may not be limited to criticizing the HKSAR government but also allegedly violating the national security law," Lau said, noting that they clearly understood the risky situation they were in. 

Citizen News has long taken the privilege of the "fourth power"  to criticize the central government and the HKSAR's government, and the decision of ceasing operations probably shows that they are unable to adapt to the new situation or have no idea about how to deal with the future, according to observers. 

Hong Kong Secretary for Security Chris Tang Ping-keung criticized the interpretation of Citizen News in October for its misleading report about the Article 23 of the Basic Law. When Tang responded to a question about whether the legislature would target speech crime, the senior Hong Kong official answered that a criminal offence consisted of an act and an intention, and the Secretary for Justice would only prosecute based on sufficient evidence.

In a statement published on the HKSAR government website on October 9, the Security Bureau said the report by Citizen News was misleading as it said Tang refused to guarantee that freedom of speech would not be undermined under Article 23. 

Li, Chief Editor of Citizen News, used to work for the infamous, now-defunct, Apple Daily between 1997 to 2016, according to open data. 

Similar to Stand News, it also published articles harshly criticizing the central government and also the Communist Party of China. For example, in an article published in June, it referred to the CPC leadership as "dictatorship" and criticized it for "abusing its power" in controlling the local governance in Hong Kong. 

After Stand News closed its doors, some local experts also said that despite a chorus of Western media-led criticism, the HKSAR government will continue implementing the national security law for Hong Kong and local regulations as well as newly implemented laws to regulate media outlets, which cannot become platforms for instigating social conflicts or anti-China movements, nor a channel for brainwashing and poisoning the mind's of Hong Kong's youths. 

Nixie Lam, a member-elect to the 7th Legislative Council, told the Global Times she "is not surprised" as she heard of such decision. Similar to Stand News and Apple Daily, Hong Kong Citizen News is also a biased media, and Chris Yeung from the site was the former president of journalist association of Hong Kong, which played a key role during the turmoil in 2019, Lam said. 

From faking press ID to having so called cameramen standing in front of the police line, the site's staff provoked or even stopped police officers from launching normal operations during the turmoil in 2019, she noted.