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Opinion | Stand News: A vector of foreign influence

By Laura Ruggeri, an Italian-born writer and scholar

On December 29, the Hong Kong police arrested several current and former senior staff members of Stand News. Subsequently the online news outlet decided to shut down its website and social media pages, deleting previous stories.

Since the investigation is still underway it is premature to comment on the nature of the offenses that prompted the police to act, and yet ignorance of details about this operation didn't stop Antony Blinken, U.S. Secretary of State: he barged in and condemned it as an attack on press freedom. Writing on Twitter he urged Hong Kong authorities to "stop targeting the independent media and release those unjustly detained".

No one knows how Mr. Blinken could reach the conclusion that Stand News staff are being unjustly detained but Twitter users quickly reminded him that he had never shown any concern for the long imprisonment of Julian Assange whose only "crime" was exposing U.S. war crimes.

Western journalists and several politicians were just as quick to denounce the "crackdown on independent media in Hong Kong" but failed to carry out even the most cursory open source investigation on the professed independence of Stand News.

If they had bothered to join the dots, they would know that this news outlet was anything but independent; in reality it was part of an influence media project conceived and funded by the same foreign forces that attempted a colour revolution in Hong Kong.

Like its English-language counterpart Hong Kong Free Press, Stand News was established in 2014 in the aftermath of the failed Umbrella Movement. Though ostensibly founded by Tony Tsoi Tung-ho with former House News editors, another person used to take credit for the foundation of both House News and Stand News, that is Hong Kong Free Press co-founder, Evan Fowler.

Over the years the description of the role he played in these outlets has undergone several changes: "co-founder", "advisor", "helped to establish", "director", "writer", "contributor". And though he is no longer listed as a co-founder of these news outlets, one can easily find mention of his initial role on several web pages.

In 2018, when invited to speak at a symposium organized by Waseda Journalism School in Japan, Evan Fowler was introduced as "a Hong Kong native, writer and co-founder of Hong Kong Free Press. He ran the Hong Kong Identity Project between 2007-2015, and has helped establish three online papers, including the Chinese language House News, which at the time of its closure in 2014, was the second most read paper in Hong Kong. Mr. Fowler is now resident in the UK."

His speech in Japan was titled "Turning People Against People: the Psychology of Localism, Media and Democracy in Hong Kong."[1]

Establishing and directing three pro-democracy online papers within two years while running a project to study Hong Kong identity with the aim of boosting localist sentiment is a remarkable achievement and one may wonder what motivated Mr. Fowler. Though a more pertinent question would be who motivated him.

When Evan Fowler relocated to the U.K. he started working for the Henry Jackson Society (HJS), a neoconservative, trans-Atlantic think tank run by Alan Mendoza - an unsuccessful Tory candidate at the 2015 general election. Among the initial signatories of the Society's statement of principles features Richard Dearlove, former head of MI6, the British Secret Intelligence Service.

Fowler's collaboration with the Society may have started before his relocation to the U.K. On 28 September 2018 the Henry Jackson Society and Hong Kong Watch co-hosted a seminar entitled: "The Future of Hong Kong". The seminar was chaired by John Hemmings and Evan Fowler. Guest speakers included Martin Chu-ming Lee, Benny Yiu-ting Tai, Joseph Yi-zheng Lian, Nathan Kwun-chung Law, Benedict Rogers and Alan Mendoza.[2]

One may wonder who paid for this seminar in light of the fact that a year earlier, in 2017, the HJS was reportedly receiving around £10,000 a month from the Japanese embassy in London to encourage politicians and journalists to speak out against China’s international political moves.[3]

This shouldn't come as a surprise given that HJS works closely with people who have been linked to the influence/intelligence network known as Integrity Initiative, a U.K. Foreign & Commonwealth Office operation. One of these people is Bill Browder who lobbied the U.S. Congress to pass the Magnitsky Act[4], a bill which applies globally and authorizes the U.S. government to sanction those it sees as human rights offenders, freeze their assets, and ban them from entering the U.S. Other intelligence assets straddling between the HJS and Integrity Initiative are Vladimir Ashurkov and Nikita Kulachenkov, prominent members of the Anti-Corruption Foundation set up by Aleksei Navalny.

The internal files of Integrity Initiative, leaked by Anonymous in November 2018, reveal that this murky organization, among other things, maintains a clandestine global network of journalists, academics, military and intelligence operatives to identify targets for the Magnitsky Act , lobby governments, spread pro-Western propaganda and encourage more aggressive policies toward Moscow and Beijing.

The director of Asia Studies at HJS is John Hemmings[5], who is also an adjunct Fellow at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a U.S. think tank funded by defense contractors and dominated by members with ties to the State Department and CIA. Hemmings and Fowler have collaborated on several projects and together with well-know Hong Kong agitators they penned a report[6] to lobby the U.K. government.

Evan Fowler is so close to these agents of chaos that in 2021 he wrote a book with/for Nathan Law entitled "Freedom - How we lose it and how we fight back"[7].

Given Evan Fowler's extensive ties to a powerful influence/intelligence network is little surprise that Stand News was the only Hong Kong media outlet to work with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) to produce reports on the Pandora Papers in October 2021 - a trove of 12 million leaked documents revealing the hidden wealth and tax structures of some of world's richest and most powerful people. When ICIJ began disseminating selected files to the media, activities like those of ICIJ's major funders were overlooked. Very few Western corporations and billionaires were scrutinized in the coverage, the investigation focusing instead on countries that didn't toe the U.S line like Zimbabwe, North Korea, Syria, Russia and China (two former Hong Kong Chief Executives were named in the report.)

Among the financial backers of the ICIJ we find Pierre Omidyar, the Ebay founder who had himself taken advantage of the same tax heavens exposed in the leak.

Over the years, Omidyar[8], following in the footsteps of George Soros, has invested alongside the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) as well as the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) in strategic locations around the world, NGOs, fact-checking sites, regime-change networks and media outlets. In fact, the NED's media arm, the Center for International Media Assistance (CIMA), lists the Omidyar Network as a partner organization.

As to the professional integrity and independence of the ICIJ, one has to look no further than their wholehearted endorsemnent of Adrian Zenz's delirious narrative on the nonexistent genocide in Xinjiang.

In light of its collaborations and partnership with ICIJ it is plausible that Stand News was well positioned in the network of intelligence-connected media that have been selected and appointed to conduct information warfare against China, Russia and any sovereign state challenging U.S. hegemony.


The views do not necessarily reflect those of DotDotNews.

Read more articles by Laura Ruggeri:

Opinion | Hybrid war on China (Part I)

Opinion | Hybrid war on China (Part II)

Opinion | Hybrid war on China (Part III)


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