China takes aim at Hong Kong press freedom probe

China on Friday criticized a press freedom survey by the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Hong Kong that found nearly half of its members were considering leaving the city.

The investigation found members were concerned about declining press freedoms under a sweeping national security law imposed by Beijing following massive anti-government protests in 2019.

Eighty-three of 99 journalists surveyed said the work environment had “worse” since the law was introduced last June. The law prohibits subversion, secession, terrorism and foreign collusion to intervene in city affairs, and has since been used to arrest more than 120 people in the semi-autonomous Chinese city.

FILE – Defenders of press freedom gather outside a court in Hong Kong, April 22, 2021.

“These results clearly show that assurances that Hong Kong still enjoys freedom of the press, guaranteed by the Basic Law, are not enough,” FCC Chairman Keith Richburg said. “Further steps must be taken to restore trust among journalists and ensure that Hong Kong maintains its long-standing reputation as a home for international media.

In a statement, the office of the Chinese Foreign Ministry’s commissioner in Hong Kong warned the FCC to stop making “noise” and accused the organization of being “dark minions” intervening in the affairs of the town.

“There is no absolute freedom of the press anywhere in the world that is above the law,” the statement said. “It is common international practice for countries to oversee news media operating in their own country in accordance with the law.”

The investigation comes as authorities crack down on political dissent in Hong Kong. Most of the city’s prominent pro-democracy activists are in jail. Critics say the security law nullified freedoms promised to 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 freedom and for decades served as the regional headquarters for many English-language news outlets.

The national security law has been used against journalists in the city. The pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily was forced to close in June after millions of dollars in assets were frozen and several editors and senior executives were arrested.

The New York Times has moved some of its staff from Hong Kong to Seoul amid uncertainties over the city’s outlook for journalism under security laws.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin speaks during a daily briefing at the Foreign Ministry in Beijing on July 24, 2020.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin speaks during a daily briefing at the Foreign Ministry in Beijing on July 24, 2020.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said at a regular press briefing on Friday that the rights of foreign media and journalists in Hong Kong will be “fully protected” as long as they report according to law. .

Wang said that in April this year, there were 628 foreign employees holding foreign media work visas in Hong Kong, an increase of 18.5 percent over 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 environment in Hong Kong,” he said.

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