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Hong Kong media censored and controlled during visit by Chinese president

An activist holds a placard demanding the release of Chinese Nobel Peace Laureate Liu Xiaobo during a demonstration on the 20th anniversary of the territory's handover from Britain to Chinese rule, in Hong Kong, 1 July 2017
An activist holds a placard demanding the release of Chinese Nobel Peace Laureate Liu Xiaobo during a demonstration on the 20th anniversary of the territory's handover from Britain to Chinese rule, in Hong Kong, 1 July 2017

REUTERS/Damir Sagolj

This statement was originally published on ifj.org on 3 July 2017.

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) strongly criticises the actions by authorities against the media during the visit of President Xi Jinping to mark the 20th anniversary of the handover of Hong Kong.

On June 30, 2017 the Programme Staff Union of the Radio, Television of Hong Kong (RTHK) reported that a popular satire program Hardliner was removed from the original program schedule by the Hong Kong Television Broadcasting (TVB). According to an Apple Daily report, the RTHK spokesperson said that RTHK had received a stop notice from TVB, ordering them to stop the airing of the program, using breaking news as the reason. When RTHK questioned TVB about the re-scheduling, TVB proposed to air the program the next day on July 1. RTHK opposed the date change, and eventually TVB agreed to the program being aired early on June 30, on a different channel. According to the clauses in the free-to-air license which RTHK broadcasts under, the licensee has a duty to allocate a certain number of hours to broadcast programmes produced by the public broadcaster.

The union said that the latest move by TVB violates a long-standing, mutually accepted arrangement, as TVB unilaterally removed the programme, without prior discussion with RTHK. The union said: "Maybe there is an unspoken story behind it." The union said the programme included a update on the developing story regarding Liu Xiaobo, who is on medical parole after been diagnosed with terminal liver cancer.

In a separate incident, a number of foreign journalists and camera crew were harassed and verbally assaulted by an anti-democracy group at a rally on June 30. According to several videos posted on social media, the journalists were covering the rally at the Star Ferry at Tsim Sha Tsui in Kowloon. There were competing groups at the Ferry, with pro and anti-democracy groups assembling in the same place.

Several people were restrained by Hong Kong police as they tried to get close to the hotel when President Xi Jinping was staying. The people were trying to approach the President regarding the medical condition of dissident Liu Xiaobo. During the incident, according to HK01, Avery Ng, the Chairperson of the League of Social Democrats, was beaten by a police officer. In the report, a journalist took several photos of the incident which occurred in a marked police car. A police officer also stopped the journalist from photographing the incident.

The IFJ Asia Pacific Office said: "July 1 is an important day in the Hong Kong calendar. Since 1997, the Hong Kong people have peacefully marked the date, often with peaceful protests, as a way to express their political views. Reports suggest that many of the violent actions have been at the hands of anti-democracy groups which went to the rallies and protests, creating chaos."

The IFJ stands with the Programme Staff Union of RTHK in calling on TVB to promptly provide a full explanation for the programme rescheduling.

We also call for Carrie Lam, the new Hong Kong Chief Executive, to honour her promise to implement a new style of governance in her tenure which includes upholding freedom of the press and freedom of assembly.

We also call for the Commissioner of Police to investigate the assault of Avery Ng, and ensure the Hong Kong police are educated in the rights of the media.

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