Foreign Policy Blogs

Press Freedom Under Attack in Hong Kong, Journalists Protest

Hong Kong journalists protest for press freedom, January 23, 2014 (HKJA).

Hong Kong journalists protest for press freedom, January 23, 2014 (HKJA).

An estimated 6000 journalists and free speech advocates marched in Hong Kong on February 23 in protest against the erosion of press freedom and free expression in the Chinese territory. Organized by the Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA) and other media groups, the demonstration included a rally outside Hong Kong chief executive C.Y. Leung’s office to demand that he keep his election promises to uphold press freedom. The march comes amid fears of mounting attacks on democratic rights and freedom of expression by the Chinese central government in Beijing and pro-Beijing authorities in Hong Kong (see Hong Kong Standard, Reuters, South China Morning Post, Straits Times, Wall Street Journal).

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Freedom House, and HKJA have produced detailed reports on growing threats to press freedom and freedom of expression in Hong Kong under the influence of mainland China. These include physical attacks on and death threats against journalists and news organizations, economic and political pressure on news organizations resulting in self-censorship, co-optation of media owners, legal restrictions on investigative journalists, and denial of broadcast licenses, all purposed at silencing critics as Beijing tightens its grip on Hong Kong. The January sacking of popular radio host Li Wei-Ling — a noted critic of both the Hong Kong and Beijing governments — was tied to pressure from the pro-Beijing chief executive’s office.

Speakers at Sunday’s march on the chief executive’s office included HKJA chairperson Sham Yee-Lan, who criticized the “increasingly rampant” muzzling of Hong Kong’s press. “The trend is very clear,” said Sham, “somebody wants to control the media, to punish disobedient journalists.” HKJA vice-chair Shirley Yam said, “I have been in this industry for 30 years. I would say this is the worst time.” Press freedom in Hong Kong “has been significantly compromised,” according to Yam, who added that recently “interviews were barred, photos were edited, columnists were sacked for all kinds of reasons.” Cable TV reporter Karen Kwok said that the future of press freedom in Hong Kong “depends on what kind of fight we put up…. If we don’t speak up, of course it will only get worse.”

Photos from the march may be seen at HKJA’s Facebook page.



Mark C. Eades

Mark C. Eades is an Asia-based writer, educator, and independent researcher. Located in Shanghai, China from 2009 to 2015, he now splits his time between the United States and various locations in Asia. He has spent a total of seven years in China since his first visit in 1991, and has taught at Fudan University, Shanghai International Studies University, and in the private sector in Shanghai. He is also widely traveled throughout East and Southeast Asia. His educational background includes a Bachelor of Arts in Social Science and a Master of Arts in Humanities from San Francisco State University with extensive coursework in Asia-Pacific studies. His previous publications include articles on China and Sino-US relations in U.S. News & World Report, Asia Times, Christian Science Monitor, USA Today, and Atlantic Community. Twitter: @MC_Eades