According to AP, Hong Kong police on Thursday formally charged two people from an online pro-democracy news outlet with sedition, a day after the outlet said it would cease operations following a police raid on its office and seven arrests.
National security police said they charged two men, aged 34 and 52, with one count each of conspiracy to publish a seditious publication but did not identify them.
According to local media reports, the two are Chung Pui-kuen and Patrick Lam, who were editors at Stand News, an online pro-democracy news outlet.
Police also said they would prosecute the company for sedition.
Chung and Lam were being taken to West Kowloon court on Thursday, police said in a statement.
The other arrestees have been detained for further questioning. Apart from Chung and Lam, four other former Stand News board members, including singer Denise Ho and former lawmaker Margaret Ng, were arrested on Wednesday. Ho was released from police custody on Thursday afternoon.
Chan Pui-man, a former editor at the pro-democracy Apple Daily newspaper and Chung’s wife, was also arrested.
The seven were arrested under a crime ordinance that dates from Hong Kong’s days as a British colony before 1997, when it was returned to China. Those convicted could face up to two years in prison and a fine of up to 5,000 Hong Kong dollars ($640).
Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said at a news conference Thursday that the arrests were not targeted at the media.
“Journalism is not sedition, but seditious acts and activities and inciting other people through other acts and activities could not be condoned under the guise of news reporting,” she said.
“It should be very clear what is reporting of news, and what is seditious acts or activities to undermine national security.”
Her comments came after U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken called on Hong Kong authorities to release the detainees.
“Freedom of expression, including media freedom, and access to information provided by an independent media are critical to prosperous and secure societies. These freedoms enabled Hong Kong to flourish as a global center for finance, trade, education, and culture,” Blinken said in a statement.
“By silencing independent media, (Chinese) and local authorities undermine Hong Kong’s credibility and viability. A confident government that is unafraid of the truth embraces a free press.”
The United States has also sanctioned five Hong Kong-based Chinese officials following legislative council elections in the city earlier this month for reducing Hong Kong’s autonomy and freedoms.