It is the fourth closure in the last year of a significant news organization that is not aligned with the city establishment’s pro-Beijing camp.
The injection by Beijing in July 2020 of a National Security Law, and a powerful security apparatus in the city, is seen by media organizations to have significantly reduced the freedoms of the press. The government disputes this analysis, but says that reporting must remain lawful.
Factwire, which specialized in investigative reporting, was established in 2015 using HK$4.7 million of funds that were crowd-sourced from 3,300 supporters in three months. It did not pinpoint the reasons for its closure, nor analyze the timing of it. Instead, it issued an explanation that was heartfelt, but oblique.
“In recent years, the media has contended with great change. Despite having wrestled many times with the difficult decision as to whether to continue our journalistic work, we had always come to the same affirmative conclusion: to stand fast to our core values and beliefs, and to always report the facts. But to everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose. It has, at last, come time to end our journey,” the publication said on its website.
“The FactWire News Agency will cease operation as of today, Friday, June 10, 2022. All staff will be dismissed in accordance with pre-established procedures. All monthly subscriptions will also be suspended as of today. Take care.”
The publication previously explained its mission in its website’s about section: “In a polarized society, we fill an important gap left by a media industry that is increasingly being undermined by government pressure, corporate interests and political-motivated self-censorship.”
In the past 12 months police have raided two media newsrooms and forced the closure and liquidation of the city’s best read paper Apple Daily. Its founder Jimmy Lai is currently in jail. In subsequent months, Stand News and Citizen News closed themselves.
Hong Kong recently picked a former police officer John Lee to take over as the city’s chief executive from the beginning of next month. Lee recently said that “press freedom needs to fulfil the requirements of the law. Hong Kong is a place with rule of law, any action or activities must be lawful.”
The National Security Law has changed many aspects of Hong Kong life and society, from election rules to schools’ choice of books and teaching materials. Since the NSL’s arrival, national security elements have been introduced into the city’s film censorship regulations, the public broadcaster RTHK been revamped and the Hong Kong Journalists’ Association is currently under investigation. Lee’s agenda is believed to include the passing of an additional controversial security law known as Article 23., an anti-fake news law and regulation of crowdfunding.