The government has shrunk the room for free speech through suppression, and this has resulted in media self-censorship that is becoming more stringent and worrisome, the Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA) said.
In its annual report released on Sunday, the association said the continuing clampdown on those who advocate Hong Kong independence has hurt freedom of speech in the territory while showing the government’s red line that no one is allowed to challenge, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reported.
The HKJA believes such a situation has emerged because the government puts the “one country” principle ahead of the notion of “two systems”, although both should be observed equally in Hong Kong.
In his speech delivered during the inauguration ceremony of the administration led by Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor last year, President Xi Jinping reiterated that the central authorities would unswervingly adhere to the policy of “one country, two systems”.
However, Xi also stressed the thinking of “one country” should be firmly established and any activities that endanger national security, challenge the power of the central authorities and the authority of the Basic Law, and use Hong Kong to infiltrate the mainland are deemed to challenge Beijing’s “bottom line”.
In its report, “Candle in the wind－National Security law looms over diminishing freedoms”, the HKJA said “one country” has clearly preceded “two systems”, even though Article 23 of the Basic Law, which requires Hong Kong to implement laws against treason, secession, sedition and subversion, has not been enacted.
It is no wonder, therefore, that media would refrain from writing in-depth reports on incidents that may involve touching the red line to avoid getting into trouble, but such an attitude only led to a more serious form of media self-censorship, the HKJA said.
The association cited critics as saying that although the Security Bureau claimed in mid-July its proposed ban on the Hong Kong National Party (HKNP), a pro-independence political party, has nothing to do with freedom of press, the fact that it used media reports as evidence could silence media on the issue.
At a press conference, HKJA chairperson Chris Yeung Kin-hing said editorial independence is being undermined by the emphasis on national security and sovereignty, RTHK reported.
When these matters are repeated again and again, reporters feel pressure when they cover politically sensitive issues, Yeung said.
Meanwhile, the HKJA report warned that some new media platforms have obvious political motives behind their operations as they are financially supported by the Chinese capital. It named Speak Out HK, HKGPao, OrangeNews, Lite News Hong Kong and Dot Dot News as five of them.
Yeung expressed his concern that such pro-Beijing platforms with abundant funds may cause the local media ecology to lose its diversity.
The HKJA also criticized the government for not enacting legislation on freedom of information as well as the archives law.
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