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FREE EXPRESSION UNDER THREAT

Eight years after Britain handed over Hong Kong sovereignty to China in 1997, freedom of expression in the territory is under increasing threat, say the Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA) and ARTICLE 19.

In a new report, the groups say it remains to be seen whether Donald Tsang, the new Chief Executive appointed in June 2005, is committed to protecting freedom of expression and press freedom amid increasing pressure from Beijing to interfere in the territory's affairs.

The report, titled "A Change of Wind: New Challenges to Freedom of Expression in Hong Kong," notes that Tsang has been giving mixed signals. While pledging not to enact controversial national security legislation during his two-year term, he has stated that the legislation was too loose for his liking. Described as a threat to freedom of expression by critics, the draft legislation prompted massive public protests in 2003 which forced the government to shelve it.

Tsang was also slow in responding when Hong Kong reporter Ching Cheong was arrested by mainland Chinese authorities in April. Ching Cheong, a correspondent for Singapore's "Straits Times", is accused of leaking state secrets. He has been held incommunicado (http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/67006/).

HKJA and ARTICLE 19 have joined international organisations, including the International Press Institute, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), the International Federation of Journalists and Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans frontières, RSF) in calling for the immediate release of Ching Cheong. HKJA says the case will be an indicator of how Tsang will handle an increasingly assertive government in Beijing.

Tsang, a popular career civil servant, replaces former Chief Executive Tung Chee-Hwa, who stepped down in March 2005, citing health reasons. Some analysts in Hong Kong believe he was fired by China because he was seen as weak and unpopular, reports BBC News.

Read HKJA and ARTICLE 19's report here: http://tinyurl.com/cwtsn

Visit:
- CPJ: http://www.cpj.org/news/2005/China31may05na.html
- IFJ: http://www.ifj-asia.org/page/taipei_05_resolutions_china.html
- 10,500 Urge Ching Cheong's Release: http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=14138
- Human Rights Watch Report: http://www.hrw.org/backgrounder/asia/china/hk0904/
- Hong Kong Standard: http://www.thestandard.com.hk/stdn/std/Metro/GG18Ak03.html
- Profile of Donald Tsang: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/4335331.stm
- Hong Kong After Tung Chee Hwa: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/4333525.stm

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