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Hong Kong journalists warn against diminishing freedoms

A man flicks through his newspaper in a cafe in Hong Kong under a television showing China's President Xi Jinping giving a speech at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, 18 October 2017
A man flicks through his newspaper in a cafe in Hong Kong under a television showing China's President Xi Jinping giving a speech at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, 18 October 2017

ANTHONY WALLACE/AFP/Getty Images

This statement was originally published on hkja.org.hk on 29 July 2018.

One year after Hong Kong marked the 20th anniversary of its reversion to Chinese sovereignty, Hong Kong people feel increasingly the "China factor" has caused shrinkage of the room for free speech and free press, says Chris Yeung, Chairperson of the Hong Kong Journalists Association in its annual report published today (Sunday).

Beijing's increased assertion of the notion of "one country" and national security seems to have become a "knife" hanging over the heads of Hong Kong people, he says at a press conference.

The 2018 Annual Report, in both Chinese and English, is entitled Candle in the wind - National Security law looms over diminishing freedoms. It contains five chapters, each taking an overall assessment on the state of freedom of the press and speech in Hong Kong.

The chapter written by Tse Chung-yan reveals how the Chinese-funded media have extended the influence of their newly founded digital media to the territory.

The chapter by Ching Cheong analyses the current situation and the causes of declining press freedom in mainland China. He also focuses on how the authorities manipulate local media by criticising and condemning the so called 'pro-independence view' of Benny Tai.

Ken Lui covers the latest developments of the situation of journalists covering the China beat, revealing the plight of mainstream media and those covering sensitive news in the mainland and Macau, with the latter often being threatened, assaulted and blocked.

The chapter co-authored by Allan Au, Cathy Chu and To Yiu-ming reveals and analyses the output of mainstream media and public broadcasting over the past year, highlighting self-censorship and the difficult situation ahead. The controversy over mainland officials' staged confession of suspects in front of Hong Kong media is also highlighted.

The chapter written by Shirley Yam reports that there has been no progress in the introduction of a law on freedom of information and an archives law since the new Chief Executive of the HKSAR took office. This is in spite of the fact that the government has relaxed the restrictions on online media's coverage of official news after several years' lobbying effort by the HKJA. The report, which analyses the Hong Kong media in detail, reveals that the result of these two laws not being promulgated is that, in effect, journalists are being obstructed and not allowed to search for the truth.

The HKJA reiterates that the Government should not enact a law on Basic Law Article 23 if there is no consensus in society.

To give a boost to press freedom, the Government should speed up the enactment of a law on freedom of information.

The Government should hold talks with the mainland authorities on ways to protect the safety of Hong Kong reporters when reporting in the mainland.

On the national anthem law, the HKJA is opposed to any provisions that run contrary to Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

The Annual Report can be downloaded by clicking here. If you want to have more information on the report, please contact the HKJA on 2591 0692 or email [email protected]

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