Journalists' group says press freedom deteriorating in HK

July 04, 2016 15:54
The Hong Kong Journalists Association said the central government is bent on curbing publications in the city that are critical of the Communist Party and the Chinese leadership. Photo: HKEJ

The Hong Kong Journalists Association said Beijing is tightening its ideological control over Hong Kong, raising doubts as to whether the "one country, two systems" principle is still feasible in the territory.

In its 2016 annual report, the HKJA said the detention of the five Hong Kong booksellers in the mainland shows that the central government is bent on curbing publications in the city that are critical of the Communist Party and the Chinese leadership, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.

It expressed shock over Chief Secretary Carrie Lam’s recent comments that she has not seen any evidence of the deterioration of press freedom in Hong Kong, despite what happened to the five booksellers.

The case shows that there are huge discrepancies between Lam’s views and those of the general public, the association said.

HKJA chairperson Shum Yee-lan said one can easily doubt the government’s determination to uphold the freedom of the press when senior officials turn a blind eye to the worsening situation, as documented by many cases over the last few years.

Shum said she doubts if the situation will improve, given the social and political atmosphere in Hong Kong at present.

She called on the government to introduce legislation on the freedom of access to information and documents, which would allow citizens to obtain government information through legitimate channels and journalists to cover protests and demonstrations without facing any restrictions.

Mak Yin-ting, editor of the annual report, said she could not comprehend why bookseller Lam Wing-kee was detained and interrogated when what had done was perfectly legal in Hong Kong.

The disappearance and detention of the five booksellers have deterred publishers from coming out with books that are critical of the Chinese leadership, and that has hurt the freedom of the press and publishing, Mak said.

Mak also noted that eight of the 26 media outlets in Hong Kong are controlled by mainland government and merchants, suggesting that Beijing’s desire to resume full control of Hong Kong is largely successful.

Commenting on the HKJA annual report, Legislative Council President Jasper Tsang said he would feel strange if people concluded that the case of bookseller Lam Wing-kee has put Hong Kong’s freedom of speech and of the press under threat.

He said Lam’s accusations against the mainland government after his return to Hong Kong were fully covered by local media without any “discounting” of the content.

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