October 28, 2020

Press Freedom

Hong Kong

Press Freedom Update July 16

by Bill Collins, OPC Press Freedom Chair

The early innings have been a struggle for Hong Kong as it continues to deal with the press freedom fallout from China’s new security law that became official on June 30.

Only a few weeks into the new era, The New York Times is relocating a portion of its Hong Kong staff. Immigration officials there have denied the work permit application of New York Times reporter Chris Buckley. And China requested a meeting with the U.S. ambassador in Beijing to register an accusation that Washington is interfering over Hong Kong:

  • The New York Times will relocate its digital team from its Hong Kong bureau to Seoul. The transfer will be implemented over the next year. This represents about one-third of its Hong Kong-based staff. Correspondents and other staff supporting print production for the paper’s Asian and European editions will remain in the Asian financial hub. “China’s sweeping new security law in Hong Kong has created a lot of uncertainty about what the new rules will mean to our operation and our journalism,” said the paper, according to news reports. “We feel it is prudent to make contingency plans and to diversity our editing staff around the region. With the city facing a new era under tightened Chinese rule, Times editors determined they needed an additional base of operations in the region.”
  • In a related development, Hong Kong authorities have denied the visa application of New York Times reporter Tim Buckley, who was forced to leave China in May after officials there did not renew his journalist visa. No reason was given by Hong Kong. Buckley’s recent coverage in China included the coronavirus and human rights abuses against the Muslim population in Xinjiang.
  • Beijing is accusing the U.S. of attempting to contain China’s development by sanctioning officials who undermine Hong Kong’s local autonomy. Zheng Zeguang, the Chinese vice foreign minister, told U.S. ambassador Terry Branstad that American threats of sanctions and cancellation of Hong Kong’s special trading privileges are not about standing up for freedom and democracy. Instead, it represents another U.S. effort to contain China’s development. “I want to warn the U.S. sternly that any bullying and unfairness imposed on China by the U.S. will meet resolute counterattack from China. And the U.S. attempt to obstruct China’s development is doomed to failure,” said Zheng.
  • President Trump has signed the Hong Kong Autonomy Act into law, in addition to an executive order that reaffirms a previous decision by the U.S. president to eliminate preferential treatment given to Hong Kong. Both the U.S. and Great Britain have deep concerns over the implications of China’s new national security law in Hong Kong, especially as it relates to long held freedoms of speech, press and protest.