China attacks Hong Kong press freedom probe

HONG KONG: China on Friday criticized a press freedom inquiry by the Hong Kong Foreign Correspondents’ Club which found that nearly half of its members were considering leaving the city.
The inquiry found that members were concerned about a decline in press freedoms under a sweeping national security law imposed by Beijing following massive anti-government protests in 2019.
Eighty-four percent of the 99 journalists surveyed said the work environment had “deteriorated” since the law was introduced last June. The law prohibits subversion, secession, terrorism, and foreign collusion to interfere in the city’s affairs, and has since been used to arrest more than 120 people in the semi-autonomous Chinese city.
“These results clearly show that assurances that Hong Kong still enjoys the freedom of the press guaranteed by the Basic Law are not sufficient,” said FCC Chairman Keith Richburg. “More steps must be taken to restore journalists’ confidence and ensure that Hong Kong maintains its reputation as a host country for international media for decades. ”
In a statement, the Chinese Foreign Ministry’s commissioner’s office in Hong Kong warned the FCC to stop making “noise” and accused the organization of being “black hands” intervening in the affairs of the country. city.
“There is no absolute press freedom in the world that is above the law,” the statement read. “It is standard international practice for countries to supervise news media operating in their own countries in accordance with the law. ”
The investigation comes as authorities crack down on political dissent in Hong Kong. Most of the city’s main pro-democracy activists are currently in prison. Critics say the security law nullified the freedoms promised in Hong Kong for 50 years when it was handed over to China in 1997.
The former British colony was previously known for its vibrant press freedoms and for decades served as the regional headquarters for many English-language media.
The National Security Law has been used against journalists in the city. The pro-democracy Apple Daily was forced to shut down in June after millions of dollars in assets were frozen and several editors and senior executives were arrested.
The New York Times said it would move some of its staff from Hong Kong to Seoul amid uncertainties over the city’s journalism prospects under security legislation.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin told a regular press conference on Friday that the rights of foreign media and journalists in Hong Kong will be “fully protected” as long as they report in accordance with the law. to the law.
Wang said that in April this year, there were 628 foreign employees with foreign media work visas in Hong Kong, an increase of 18.5 percent from the same period last year.
“It is a true reflection of how people from all walks of life, including foreign media in Hong Kong, see and feel the economic, social and media reporting environment in Hong Kong,” he said. declared.

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