Press freedom in Hong Kong has been regressing for years
It was only until China’s imposition on the world’s socio-economic and political landscape that it garnered international appraisal
By David Venn
The theme of the 2019 N3 conference held in Hong Kong on May 31 and June 1 and 2 was emboldened across the headline of their website and almost as daunting as the topic it sought to unveil: “Covering Asia’s New Order.”
As could be perceived in many different instances, the main topic of discussion, through panels such as Covering Asia’s New Order, News Leaders Roundtable, China on the Rise, The New Order in Business and Trade and The State of Press Freedom in Asia, was clearly a look forward at what the state of the press will be in five, 10, 15 years down the road in Hong Kong as China continues to impose its authority over the archipelago nation.
Media organizations such as the Hong Kong Free Press, founded by Tom Grundy, have grounded their values in staking out press freedom, stating: “We aim to be the most independent and credible English-language news source in Greater China. We seek to amplify the voices of the voiceless, not the powerful. And our platform will act as a monitor should Hong Kong’s core values and freedoms be threatened. The HKFP team is fully committed to reporting the facts, without fear, favour or interference.”
Riots are taking over malls and streets; the HKFP reported 33 were arrested after “police were seen using pepper spray and batons against protesters within the mall” and “a plainclothes police officer was filmed being beaten by protesters as a reporter tried to protect him.” The dire need for independent media is becoming more essential as the days progress and tensions rise.
Although press freedom in Hong Kong has only recently become relevant to the surrounding world, the past 15 year period between 2002 and 2017 when the World Press Freedom Index of Reporters Without Borders dropped Hong Kong’s press freedom from 18 to 73: revealing that this degradation has been occurring for years.
Half of Hong Kong journalists surveyed in a 2018 article by Kimmy Chung in the South China Morning Post listed the Chinese government as one of the three most important factors affecting their assessment of press freedom in the city. This grew from 38 per cent the year prior.
Huiyi Li, masters of journalism graduate and journalist at Tak Kung Pao newspaper in Hong Kong said the government, much like the coverage of Tiananmen Square, has been censoring the extradition protests during the past few weeks.
“Central broadcast is covering [the protests] with advertisements,” Li said, “not allowing us to know the real situation.”
It’s clear that China’s rule over Hong Kong began long before it garnered international attention, but now, as China grows into an imposing super power and the “New Cold War” age begins, as coined by multiple news organizations including the Economist, conferences, panels and rebellious news organization that are retrogressive to China’s dominating imperialist regulations will have a greater importance as we near 2047.
David Venn is a journalist from Toronto, Canada who focuses on human rights and international politics and community development.