Nine years ago, online news outlet House News – modelled after the U.S.’s Huffington Post – was founded to cover Hong Kong’s political and social developments. One of the first major events the fledgling publication reported on was the national education demonstrations in the summer of 2012, when students and teachers protested a patriotic curriculum they said would “brainwash” the younger generation.

However, in July 2014, one of the founders, Tony Tsoi, announced its closure on Facebook. The former chief operating officer of Commercial Radio cited political pressure and an atmosphere of “white terror,” adding that low advertising revenue made the outlet difficult to sustain. But six months later, House News was reborn as Stand News, operating as a non-profit organisation under its parent company Best Pencil.

A 2014 Facebook screenshot from House News’ post on the discovery of historical relics at a Sha Tin to Central MTR link construction site. The graffiti reads “Do you know history is being damaged?” Photo: House News/Facebook

With its frontline reporting and livestreaming, Stand News made a name for itself during the 2019 protests and unrest. As press freedom came under pressure amid Beijing’s national security law, the pro-democracy outlet – which also hosted opinion pieces from political activists – found itself targeted by Secretary for Security Chris Tang, who accused it of biased reporting.

The outlet had been recognised with a number of prestigious press accolades, including five Society of Publishers in Asia (SOPA) awards last year. In the human rights reporting category, Stand News received the excellence award for its two-part series on a hunger strike at Castle Peak Bay Immigration Centre, where refugees are held, as well as an honourable mention for a piece on the 12 Hongkongers detained by the mainland authorities while fleeing to Taiwan.

stand news castle peak bay report
Stand News’ report about the alleged mistreatment of detainees at Castle Peak Bay Immigration Centre. Photo: Stand News

Stand News was also the only Hong Kong newsroom to work with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) on the Pandora Papers investigation, a hard-hitting expose uncovering the secret wealth of politicians, celebrities and business leaders around the world.

The investigation alleged that former chief executives Tung Chee-hwa and Leung Chun-ying engaged in clandestine financial dealings during their terms involving offshore bank accounts and undisclosed share transactions.

leung chun ying pandora
Former chief executive Leung Chun-ying was among the public figures investigated in the Pandora Papers. Photo: International Consortium of Investigative Journalists

Last Wednesday, seven figures linked to Stand News were arrested as authorities raided its office and froze HK$61 million in assets. By the afternoon, the outlet announced that it was shutting down, and by the end of the day, its website and social media pages had gone dark. Stand News had over 1.3 million followers on Facebook and about 1 million on Instagram.

Two former top editors, Chung Pui-kuen and Patrick Lam, were charged with allegedly conspiring to publish seditious publications the next day.

With a generally young newsroom fluent in social media, data journalism and clever graphic design, Stand News was among Hong Kong’s most recognisable – and trusted – news outlets. According to a 2019 study by the Chinese University of Hong Kong’s Centre for Communication and Public Opinion Survey, Stand News was rated the most credible online media source out of a list of ten outlets.

The Stand News website now returns a message about the outlet ceasing its operations. Photo: Stand News

Among its scoops last year was the revelation that three top government officials were fined by police for violating the four-person seating limit at restaurants in March, and the gifting of expensive food hampers to two senior Immigration Department officials from an Evergrande executive director in December.

HKFP has rounded up key events since the founding of Stand News, one of the city’s only remaining independent newsrooms at the time of its closing.

December 2014: Stand News founded

Tony Tsoi, one of the founders of House News, set up Stand News with media veterans Yu Ka-fai and Chung Pui-kuen in December 2014. In Stand News’ launch statement, the outlet said: “[With the] death of House News [comes the] birth of Stand News.” It also explained that, unlike House News, Stand News would operate as a non-profit, with the three-founders giving up their holdings under a trust fund.

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Stand News’ home page on December 29, 2021 before it was shut down. Photo: Stand News

August 2015: Outlet begins crowdfunding

Eight months after its launch, Stand News introduced its crowdfunding scheme, allowing supporters to make one-off or monthly donations of HK$300, HK$500 or HK$1,000 to the outlet. Members also received invitations to Stand News events, such as seminars, as well as access to the outlet’s financial reports and other publications.

In 2021, at a press conference following the arrests, police questioned the source of Stand News’ capital after freezing HK$61 million in funds.

August 2018: Then-chief executive Leung Chun-ying sues Stand News

In 2018, then-chief executive Leung Chun-ying sued Stand News for defamation, alleging that the outlet ran an article that falsely associated him with triad groups. The piece in question referenced a 2012 dinner event between Leung’s aides and people with reported triad connections.

June 2019: Stand News begins livestreaming anti-extradition protests

A graphic on the now-defunct Stand News website’s live broadcast page. Photo: Stand News

When protests erupted over a controversial extradition bill in June 2019, Stand News emerged as a foremost reliable source thanks to reporters’ relentless livestreaming of demonstrations from the frontlines. According to Citizen News, the non-profit outlet published 2,787 livestreams during the months-long protests.

July 2019: Reporter Gwyneth Ho assaulted while livestreaming Yuen Long station attack

On July 21, 2019, when white-clad men attacked protesters and commuters at Yuen Long MTR station, Stand News reporter Gwyneth Ho – who was livestreaming the horrific scenes – was herself assaulted. The broadcast captures an attacker lashing at her with a stick as she screams and drops her camera. Ho, who then continued livestreaming, won fame as a then-relatively unknown reporter.

December 2019: Police flash Stand News editor’s ID card on livestream

Ronson Chan
Ronson Chan (right).

During a protest in Tai Po, a police officer stopped Deputy Assignment Editor Ronson Chan and asked to check his identity. The officer then displayed his Hong Kong identity card – which included his full name, photo and date of birth – in front of a livestreaming camera.

Chan is now chair of the Hong Kong Journalists Association, and was taken away by police last Wednesday to assist with the investigation as his colleagues were arrested.

January 2020: Police again display Stand News journalist’s ID card on camera

Less than a month later, another officer came under fire for again flashing a Stand News journalist’s identity card in front of a camera. This time, the incident took place during a protest in Admiralty. At a press conference next day, a police spokesperson said that officers were not aware that the man being searched was a reporter and that he was livestreaming on his phone.

February 2021: Stand News UK bureau opens

Stand News opened its UK bureau earlier this year with the aim of covering the Hong Kong immigration wave under the BN(O) visa scheme – a pathway allowing Hongkongers to live and work in the UK – and to support staff with overnight shifts.

February 2021: Ex-journalist Gwyneth Ho among 47 democrats charged over legislative primary

Gwyneth Ho
Gwyneth Ho. Photo: Gwyneth Ho via Facebook.

In February 2021, police conducted city-wide arrests of democrats who had taken part in an unofficial primary ahead of the later-delayed Legislative Council elections. Among them was former reporter Gwyneth Ho, who had quit journalism to become a political activist. As of December 2021, Ho had been remanded for over 10 months.

June 2021: Stand News scraps opinion section and donations scheme; directors resign

Foreseeing its fate after the arrests and raid of the pro-democracy paper Apple Daily – which was followed shortly by the 26-year-old tabloid’s shutdown – Stand News announced that it would be removing its opinion articles and halting its donations scheme. Six of the company’s directors, including ex-lawmaker Margaret Ng and singer Denise Ho, resigned from their posts.

August 2021: Editor Ronson Chan denies soliciting ‘immoral’ massage services

Ronson Chan was seen back at the Stand News office shortly after being released on Wednesday, December 28, 2021.
Ronson Chan was seen back at the Stand News office shortly after being released on Wednesday, December 29, 2021. Photo: Candice Chau/HKFP.

Editor Ronson Chan posted on Facebook that reporters were accusing him of hiring a prostitute at a massage parlour. He said that he did get a massage, but did not solicit any “immoral” services.

October 2021: Stand News reporters barred from covering National Day reception

Stand News – and independent outlet Citizen News – said their reporters were denied entry to China’s National Day reception at the Grand Hyatt Hotel. Event staff reportedly told reporters that they were “not invited.”

December 2021: Security Secretary accuses Stand News of ‘demonising’ reports

In response to Stand News’ report about the poor treatment of detainees at the city’s first “smart prison,” where technology is used to enhance prison management, Secretary for Security Chris Tang said the outlet’s coverage was “biased, smearing and demonising.”

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Hong Kong Free Press is a new, non-profit, English-language news source seeking to unite critical voices on local and national affairs. Free of charge and completely independent, HKFP arrives amid rising concerns over declining press freedom in Hong Kong and during an important time in the city’s constitutional development.