Barrister and journalist Dr Margaret Ng, a recipient of the International Bar Association’s award for outstanding contribution to human rights, is among seven people arrested today in Hong Kong’s latest clampdown on critical voices. Ng is already under a one-year suspended prison sentence passed earlier this year for her alleged role in pro-democracy protests.
According to local media, Ng was arrested at 6am as more than 200 police raided homes and the offices of Stand News, an independent news website. Stand’s former and acting editors, as well as singer Denise Ho, were among those arrested.
In an apparent nod to international criticism of Beijing’s imposition of mainland Chinese laws on the territory, a police statement said today’s arrests were made under the colonial-era Crimes Ordinance. The wide-ranging measure, last revised in 1972, creates an offence of conspiracy to print or distribute seditious materials. Ng would face up to two years in prison if convicted.
In a press conference covered by the Hong Kong Free Press, a senior police officer said that Stand News had published ’seditious materials’ following the enactment of the Beijing-imposed National Security Law last June 'with intent to cause hatred towards the government, the judiciary and cause discontent among the public'.
The clampdown has been widely condemned. Grace Leung, a lecturer at the Chinese University of Hong Kong who specialises in media regulation and policies, told the Financial Times that it extends the ’chilling effect’ on journalism in the region.
Cambridge-educated Ng, called to the bar in 1988, is a former member of the Legislative Council of Hong Kong and a veteran campaigner for democracy. In 2019 she was named as joint winner of the International Bar Association’s annual award for outstanding contribution by a legal practitioner to human rights. Earlier this year she was given a suspended prison sentence after pleading not guilty to charges of organising and participating in an unauthorised assembly.