Beijing Says Journalists’ Investigation Highlighting Hong Kong Press Freedom Problems “Interference”, “Interference”

Beijing has expressed “strong disapproval” of an investigation by the Hong Kong Foreign Press Club showing growing challenges for journalists under the National Security Law.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry’s office in the city warned the Foreign Correspondents’ Club (FCC) against “meddling in Hong Kong affairs.”

The survey released on Friday showed that nearly half of those polled were considering or had already planned to leave the city due to press freedom concerns. Some 84 percent said the National Security Law imposed by Beijing on June 30 last year has made the work environment for journalists worse.

Archive photo: Studio Incendo.

The results, which were compiled from responses from 99 members, also highlighted concerns about an impending “fake news” law and self-censorship under the Security Act. The majority of those interviewed work for foreign media organizations.

In response, the bureau accused the club of “straying from professional ethics.”

“His misleading report, based on just a few answers, is neither representative nor credible. His defamation of freedom of the press in Hong Kong and exaggeration of the crippling effect constitutes interference in the affairs of Hong Kong, ”said his statement.

An Apple Daily supporter holds a copy of its final edition in front of the newspaper’s headquarters in Tseung Kwan O on June 24, 2021, before the newspaper was forced to shut down following accusations it violated the law on national security. Archive photo: Studio Incendo.

The ministry’s office said journalists’ rights had not been affected in the least by the security law. “The right of media professionals in Hong Kong to report according to the law has not been affected at all,” he said.

The bureau warned the club to “refrain from interfering with the law-based governance of the Hong Kong SAR government and the rule of law of Hong Kong in the name of press freedom.”

“We urge the FCC to distinguish right from wrong, uphold the rule of law in Hong Kong SAR, and stop digging a wedge in Hong Kong and meddling in Hong Kong affairs under any pretext. “, he added.

“No absolute freedom of the press”

The office said freedom of the press was not absolute in any country.

“[T]there is no absolute freedom of the press in the world which can be above the law. It is common international practice for countries to legally supervise media activities in their countries. Hong Kong is no exception, ”he said.

The FCC declined to comment on the statement.

FCCHK. File photo: Rhoda Kwan / HKFP.

The bureau earlier this year accused the FCC of being an “outside force” interfering with China’s “internal affairs” after the club raised concerns over the conviction of a Hong Kong journalist for having accessed public vehicle registration files.

The city’s press union, foreign governments and international rights groups have all sounded the alarm over the city’s dwindling press freedoms, after its largest pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily was forced to shut down following a national security crackdown. Police raided the newspaper, its assets were frozen and its leaders arrested and charged under the law.

At least one veteran journalist has fled the city, citing security concerns amid what he called a “white terror” under the National Security Act. A former bureaucrat now heads public broadcaster RTHK, which has been tasked with using Beijing-approved terminology on Taiwan.

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