HONG KONG – Citizen News, a small online news site in Hong Kong known for its in-depth coverage of courts and local politics, said it would stop publishing on Monday evening, heightening concerns over the media collapse once hardy in town.

Days earlier, another independent online outlet, Stand News, had shut down after hundreds of police raided its offices and arrested seven people. Two former editors of Stand News and the publication itself have been charged with conspiring to publish seditious material.

The latest shutdowns are the latest chapters in the demise of independent media outlets in Hong Kong, a city that once had some of Asia’s freest and most aggressive news outlets. Now, as Beijing continues a sweeping crackdown on the city, journalists who once covered protests and city politics are increasingly arrested or out of work, with nowhere to report.

“What is happening is not just another media shutdown,” said Lokman Tsui, a former journalism professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. “This is part of a larger government plan to dismantle all critical media, from all independent media in Hong Kong.”

Stand News and Citizen News were part of a flourishing media scene covering pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong. They carried few advertisements, relying instead on donations. They were designed for online readers, often streaming protests live for hours.

When the protest movement was stifled by widespread arrests and a sweeping security law, they turned to the courts, documenting dozens of criminal cases against protesters and opposition politicians.

Citizen News was founded five years ago by a handful of editors and journalists with extensive experience in other media in Hong Kong. The small size of the company sometimes meant it couldn’t match the completeness of larger publications. But they dug into local issues, often delivering scoops about how authorities were pressuring their legal campaign against the opposition.

In September, they were the first to report that prosecutors were planning to claim that a group that held annual vigils to mourn the victims of the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown was subversive because of its slogan “End the One-Party Dictatorship.”

As journalists continued to be arrested, Citizen News executives said they realized that publication of such work may no longer be safe.

“We haven’t changed,” Citizen News editor-in-chief Daisy Li told reporters on Monday. “It is the external and objective environment that has changed. As editor-in-chief, I am not in a position to decide whether this story, report or quote, if published, will violate the law in this changed environment.

The new digital outlets were inspired and by the staff of Apple Daily, the aggressively independent newspaper founded in 1995 by mogul Jimmy Lai. Mr. Lai was fiercely anti-Communist and promoted a style of sensational journalism, as aggressive in covering government misdeeds as it was in pursuing celebrity gossip.

Mr. Lai had long been a thorn in Beijing’s side. But after he and several Apple Daily executives were arrested and the publication was forced to shut down last year, authorities’ attention turned to smaller independent media outlets like Stand News and Citizen News. As they avoided the sensitivities of the Apple Daily tabloids, they also focused on government scrutiny and the voices of opposition figures, angering authorities.

“They were super professional in their analysis of the news, super rigorous in their fact-checking and also, that’s the important part, they weren’t afraid to speak the truth to power,” Tsui said. “That’s what makes them right now.”

A few weeks before the raid on Stand News, Hong Kong Security Secretary Chris Tang accused the exit of “biased, defamatory and demonizing” reports on conditions in the city’s prisons.

As the independent media have closed their doors, the traditional news media have become increasingly cautious. Radio Television Hong Kong, or RTHK, a public broadcaster long regarded as one of Hong Kong’s most trusted news providers, has been transformed by the government into something that critics say is more like the media in Hong Kong. Chinese state, complying with official statements and the government’s stilted narrative. Activities.

When Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai accused a former senior Communist Party official of sexual assault last year, it sparked the kind of political scandal that has traditionally dominated Hong Kong media. But traditional outlets ignored development at first. RTHK website had a single story a month after the allegations first emerged which simply refer to the Women’s Tennis Association’s concerns about her safety, without detailing Ms. Peng’s allegations.

Ming Pao, a centrist Chinese-language newspaper, initially only carried the information through its business pages. This article examined the effect on businesses linked to the official, Zhang Gaoli, who was previously a member of the Standing Committee of the Politburo, the highest echelon of political power in China. The editor-in-chief of Ming Pao, reached by phone, declined to comment on the media coverage.

“Peng Shuai is the latest example where you can tell who is not afraid to speak the truth in power and who is,” Mr. Tsui said. “It really tells me that none of the mainstream media was willing to put it on their cover or even discuss it.”

The silence of independent news outlets has helped expand the influence of Beijing’s own publications. State-controlled newspapers Wen Wei Po and Ta Kung Pao have frequently used their pages to attack politicians, journalists and pro-democracy activists. Opposition politicians have said journalists from these newspapers sometimes follow them for days.

Their pages are closely watched for clues as to what security services might do next. When their attacks escalate, official actions often follow.

Last year, Ta Kung Pao ran a series of articles attacking Stand News and accusing it of supporting terrorism for an article comparing the violent resistance campaigns in Northern Ireland and Hong Kong.

Arrests of journalists and shutdowns of independent media have been the subject of much criticism from media freedom organizations and Western governments. After the raid on Stand News, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken urged the central governments of Hong Kong and China to release the detained journalists and media executives. “Journalism is not sedition,” he said.

Beijing has accused its Western critics of seeking to destabilize Hong Kong. “These people have deliberately distorted the legal actions taken by the Hong Kong Police Force, unsuccessfully attempting to use freedom of the press as a shield for criminal acts and to undermine the rule of law in Hong Kong by the straw man trick “, the People’s Daily, the flagship newspaper of the Communist Party, said in an editorial.

In a letter to the Wall Street Journal, Hong Kong Chief Secretary John Lee said instead of criticizing the crackdown in editorials, the newspaper should support the arrests. “If you are truly interested in freedom of the press, you must support actions against people who have illegally exploited the media as a tool to pursue their political or personal gains,” he wrote.

Joy Dong contributed reporting.