Hong Kong’s free press is being gutted’ Here’s what the rest of the world is losing

A third organization — the five-year-old Citizen News — announced last week that it would shut down, too. Citizen News was not like Stand News or Apple Daily. Instead, it didn’t wait until police arrived to close the shop.

“If we can’t continue reporting the way they wanted and the way our safety allows, then ceasing operations is the only option.” Chris Yeung, chief journalist, stated this Monday during a press conference.

Since Beijing has imposed a broad national security law on Hong Kong 18 months ago, the lines defining what can be published have become increasingly blurred. It’s become increasingly difficult for journalists to determine what the authorities consider acceptable and what could lead to them spending years in prison.

That means Hong Kong — once home to one of Asia’s most vibrant media scenes, and a place that professes freedom of speech and freedom of the press — has lost almost all its homegrown independent news outlets. Even though the government dismisses the notion that press freedom has been compromised, the future for independent reporting appears increasingly grim.

Lokman Tsui, a former journalist at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, said that the government created a climate of fear and self-censorship because there is no certainty about what is legal and what isn’t seditious. He now lives in the Netherlands.

He said, “On one hand, it’s the story of a bunch outlets being forced down.” “On the other side, it’s the story of how dangerous professional reporting in Hong Kong has become that you could end up in prison.”

Blurred lines

Citizen News’ announcement wasn’t completely unexpected.

Just days before, Stand News was shut down by police after they raided its offices and detained seven people who were associated with it. The “fateful fate of Stand News” was the catalyst for this decision By Citizen News, according Yeung, who is also former chair of Hong Kong Journalists Association.

Stand News has been accused of conspiring with other publications to publish seditious articles. These allegations stem from a colonial period crimes ordinance, and not the 2020 national security laws. The national security officers responsible for raiding the outlet’s offices were the Hong josKong Police.

Citizen News was ultimately unable to determine whether stories it asked reporters to write would be in violation of regulations and decided to close its doors to protect its reputation. Daisy Li, the publication’s chief editor, stated, “The staff.”

Many people saw the outlet as another victim of the increasingly restrictive media environment in the city. Citizen News published articles criticizing government policies just like Stand News or Apple Daily.

Sarah Cook, Freedom House research director for China Hong Kong and Taiwan, said that the industry has been “gutted quickly” in the past two years.

A year ago, the Hong Kong government declared that it would replace Radio Television Hong Kong’s director with a public servant who had no media experience. The program staff union at RTHK responded to the announcement by saying that the station had lost editorial independence. Since then, RTHK has been working with Chinese state media. Press freedom advocates have raised concerns This media group is rapidly becoming a propaganda outlet.

In June, hundreds upon hundreds of officers searched the offices of Apple Daily, a long-standing pro-democracy outlet. They arrested executives, froze its assets under national security charges — and ultimately prompted it to cease publication.

August 2020: Police raid the Hong Kong offices of Apple Daily. Credit to Apple Daily

“[Hong Kong leader]Carrie Lam patiently unravels the substance of freedom of expression in Hong Kong,” Reporters Without Borders In a December 2021 report about China’s press freedoms.

Lam has managed to downplay concerns. Lam dismissed allegations that Citizen News shut downs and Stand News shutdowns were connected to the national security laws. She also rejected the idea of Hong Kong’s collapse of the free press. She claimed that the outlets decided to close themselves.

“The rule of law in Hong Kong is the most important thing.” She said Tuesday that journalists and media organizations, like everyone else, must respect and adhere to the law. “If they fear not being able comply with the law they must make a decision and take the necessary actions.”

What next

Lam claims that Hong Kong is still free to press, but there are fewer independent media outlets.

Although there are still major international media outlets — including CNN and Bloomberg — operating large newsrooms in the city, there are few significant local independent outlets left, with experts pointing to Chinese-language inmediahk.net and the English-language Hong Kong Free Press as examples.

A Numerous other outletsThey are either owned by mainland Chinese owners or backed by China’s state. Alibaba, a Chinese tech giant, owns the largest English language newspaper in South China Morning Post.

Joseph Cheng (a Hong Kong political commentator who is currently based New Zealand), said that it’s likely that any independent outlets would be targets sooner or later.

Chairperson of the Hong Kong Journalists Association Ronson Chan, left, and Chris Yeung pose during a press conference for the release of the organization's annual report on July 15, 2021.

Ronson Chan is the chair of Hong Kong Journalist Association, and was previously editor at Stand News, until it closed.

Free press might continue on a small scale, he said — but once outlets gain too much attention and resources, they will likely become targets.

CNN Business reports that Chan was the victim of a “serious crackdown on media.” Chan said his home was searched by police. “The chilling effect will have a significant impact on the management of other media.”

One year after Hong Kong's national security law, residents feel Beijing's tightening grip
Although some foreign journalists have had to face similar challenges, international media are not currently facing the same difficulties as local media. denied visas.
However, Hong Kong’s future is at risk as a global media hub. The New York Times published the following article just weeks after the 2020 national security law was implemented. AnnouncementIt would relocate some employees from Hong Kong to Seoul in South Korea. The Washington Post is also available. Seoul was chosen as the new Asia news hub.
An international correspondents’ club survey of 99 Hong Kong-based journalists revealed that 99 were satisfied with the results. 84%The situation for media workers had changed since the introduction and implementation of the national security laws. 46%They said that they had been considering leaving the city or were planning to do so due to the decline of press freedoms.
Hong Kong’s media are not nearly as restricted as those in mainland China. Beijing’s “Great Firewall”, a network of censors, severely limits internet access. It is also difficult for journalists to get visas.

The media environment of the city is becoming more similar to that on the mainland.

In the future, Hong Kong could increasingly find itself in a situation where media covered the city from the outside — just as media do with mainland China, Freedom House’s Cook said.

Tsui also said that the city’s internet may become more restricted. Authorities could block access for articles they consider controversial.

This is why it is important

Experts point out that the loss in Hong Kong of independent media outlets could also impact the role played by the press as a watchdog for the community.

This echoes the struggle that media organizations have faced worldwide. In the United States for example, more than 1,800 newspapers closed since 2004, and at least 200 countries were left without any newspaper, according to a 2019 PEN America report. Report.

“This is consistent across all countries, all cultures — if local journalism dies, corruption increases,” Tsui said.

Problem in Hong Kong is, however, that this trend of closing local media outlets has been combined with other attacks upon democracy.

Nearly all the city’s top pro-democracy activists have been imprisoned or fled the country since the National Security Law was passed. Many organizations and unions in Hong Kong have disbanded, or moved on to other places. This includes the pro-democracy organization that was organized. These are some of the largest protests in the area. And the national security law is no longer merely a threat — some activists have now been Act: Jailed.
Chief Executive Carrie Lam speaks at a press conference on December 30, 2021 in Hong Kong.

Cheng said that “the suppression of pro-democracy movements meant that there was not toleration or tolerance of an opposition, and no toleration in checks and balances.”

Stand News and Apple Daily both shut down, and they also took years of data from the internet. They left behind a historic record of the city.

Cheng said, “It is an obvious attempt to remove Hong Kong’s memory.”

Hong Kong has been Asia’s most important city for many years.

After the raid on Stand News, US Secretary-of-State Antony Blinken urged China and Hong Kong to cease targeting independent media outlets in the city and to uphold freedoms of expression and information access.

He said that Hong Kong was able to prosper as a global financial, trade, and education center because of these freedoms. In a statement

“By silencing independent media, [the People’s Republic of China]Hong Kong’s credibility is threatened by local authorities. He said that a confident government, which is not afraid of the truth embraces free speech.”

Police officers carry news material and evidence in blue plastic boxes after searching the office of Stand News.

Hong Kong is relatively unrestricted despite heavy censorship on mainland China. It has been able to serve as a gateway to the country and has attracted many media and business hubs.

This is changing, however, as Hong Kong gets closer to China.

Tsui stated that even the smallest peek is now a black box. “What the world is losing, not only Hong Kong, but also insight into China’s current affairs,” Tsui said.