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In arrests at Stand News, money is the key

  • Arrests made under British ordinance, not security law
  • Attempt to create sanctions against own home would be illegal in US and elsewhere
  • Call to attack airport came from supporter of Western “revolution industry” groups

OH NO! WE’RE READING that Hong Kong’s much-maligned National Security Law has been used to silence the last voice of freedom in the city. Wait a minute. Wasn’t “the last voice of freedom in the city” silenced a few months ago? How many “last voices of freedom” are there going to be?

Here’s what’s really happening.

Some people at a Chinese language website called Stand News were arrested. The international media refers to Stand News and Apple Daily as “pro-democracy” as opposed to “pro-Beijing” but many Hong Kong people have long disowned this ludicrously misleading, nuance-free division of Hong Kong society into two warring lumps.

It’s not like that at all. These two outlets and their main voices took an extremely anti-China/ pro-Western stance. At the other extreme, we have the mainland state press which (naturally) take a mainland state position. But in between are the vast majority of Hong Kong voices, publications and web sites, which have a great deal of more thoughtful, nuanced positions.

Back to those arrests. While national security charges may be pending in some cases, senior staff at Stand News were actually arrested under a British sedition law, written in the British era, and based on a law from the UK.

ILLEGAL IN MOST PLACES

Here’s the issue. Stand News regularly called for Western countries to hit Hong Kong with sanctions to damage our economy. In the US, citizens who call on foreign governments to undermine their country commit a crime under the Logan Act. Hostile collusion with foreign governments is illegal in most places. Nobody likes it, and pretty much all countries have systems with which to deal with it.

“The irony is under the former British [Hong Kong] rule they would have received identical treatment, or even worse, from Special Branch—with zero reporting,” said old Hongkonger Nigel Lippard yesterday.

Hong Kong people are fundamentally peaceful, and many on all sides of the debate disliked Stand News, because it was pro-violence and showcased hostile voices based in “five eyes” countries calling for violent insurrection in Hong Kong.

‘PARALYZE THE AIRPORT’

To take a dramatic example, Stand News’s Denise Ho, a Canadian living in Hong Kong, called on supporters via social media to paralyse the city’s airport, transport system, banks and other large organisations.

Hongkongers have not forgotten this. Eric SC Luk yesterday said: “You try going to the UK or Australia and calling for a massive attack on the airport and see what happens.”

Obukowsky, a popular Hong Kong voice on social media, said: “Anybody doing that in any Western country would be arrested and charged.”

SCRATCHING UNDER THE SURFACE

But here’s the main point. The international media will refuse to scratch under the surface of this story, but Hong Kong people know what to do – look for the money.

This anti-China media group, originally launched in 2012 as House News, was a financial disaster. It ran out of cash and closed in 2014.  

But just months later, it surprised everyone by resurrecting itself as Stand News and this time it soon had plenty of money, despite having very little advertising. There were lots of “donations”, staff said. At the moment, they have HK$61 million in spare cash in their accounts—that’s more than six million British pounds.

Investigators have initially said that the money appears to be linked to certain shared operations between Hong Kong and an office in London, which is odd to say the least: unless one is aware of previous similar cases.

HYBRID WAR GROUPS

The people at Stand have very strong connections with professional Western anti-China groups. Denise Ho was regularly and proudly involved with the so-called revolution industry, a cluster of Western groups such as the Oslo Freedom Forum, the AEI and CANVAS.

All three groups support each other and specialize in “weaponizing street protests” to create “regime change” through “hybrid wars” around the world in support of US and UK interests.

The Stand News case is strongly reminiscent of an occasion when Hong Kong amateur sleuths told this writer they had been studying an anti-China group called Stand With Hong Kong. They found that this group had also split operations between Hong Kong and London – their documentation was in English, and their accounts in pounds sterling. It was odd to say the least.

The money is a key to understand what’s going on—which is why investigators are focusing on it.

PUSHING WESTERN INTERESTS

There are interesting similarities between the Stand News case, and the case of Stand With Hong Kong, and not just in the similarities of the names. Does money flow from west to east, or east to west, or in both directions? Sometimes investigators can work out where it originated and how it flowed.

In August this year, a court in Hong Kong heard that Trump-fanatic billionaire Jimmy Lai Chee-ying and former US Naval intelligence staffer Mark Simon bankrolled a scheme to destroy Hong Kong’s image and harm the community by calling for a wide range of international sanctions.

The China-hating publisher and his assistant, former head of Republicans Abroad in Hong Kong, paid at least HK$13.7 million to finance a plot to trigger blockades, sanctions and related hostile actions against the city, prosecutors said.

Lai and Simon, closely connected to right wing anti-China political activists in the US and the UK, also made advance payments for anti-Hong Kong propaganda and “settled publication fees of newspaper articles” painting a negative picture of the city, the court heard.

Lai and Simon were hidden “puppet masters” employing younger people to pay do the work, prosecutors said. Key players Andy Li Yu-hin, 30, and Chan Tsz-wah, 29, admitted all charges. “I plead guilty,” Li told the court at the time. “I agree with the summary of facts, and I would like to say ‘Sorry’.”

GROUPS IN THE UK

A significant portion of the cash in that case went to anti-China lobbying groups in the UK. Li “engaged” British anti-China activist Luke de Pulford in a campaign to damage Hong Kong’s rule-of-law agreements with the international community, the court was told.

The scheme organized an expenses-paid trip for anti-China campaigner Lord David Alton, Luke de Pulford’s employer, to visit Hong Kong as part of the campaign. Lord Alton told the UK parliament that claims that the Hong Kong police had murdered people at a Hong Kong underground railway station were “credible” (although all “murdered” people were shown to be alive).

While there is as yet no direct link between that case and the present one, the echoes are there: the money puzzle and the London-Hong Kong links in particular.

SHOUTING FROM A DISTANCE

Hong Kong, alone among developed economies, lacked an anti-collusion charge—until last year.

Mark Simon left Hong Kong shortly before the law was passed. The co-founder of Stand News migrated to Australia. Nathan Law and Ted Hui, both of whom wrote anti-China features for Stand News, are in UK and Australia respectively.


Meanwhile, to get a senior lawyer’s view of some of the Hong Kong-London connections, check out this related court report from law professor Grenville Cross.

Stay skeptical. Read widely.


Click here to read The Untold Story of Apple Daily.


Image at the top by Studio Incendio