Hong Kong “neglects” its duty to defend press freedoms to support Beijing’s prohibition on US journalists, experts say

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Hong Kong’s compliance with Beijing’s unprecedented decision to bar US reporters from HK, Macao, and China has raised concern on local and international platforms.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry announced that US journalists from the New York Times, Washington Post, and the Wall Street Journal would be prohibited from working in Hong Kong.

This has occurred in response to reducing the number of Chinese nationals permitted to work for Beijing’s state-run media in the US by half, a decision the US government made early this month. 

Beijing has ordered reporters from the aforementioned media outlets to turn in their media passes within 10 days, and going forward they are no longer allowed to work as journalists in Hong Kong, Macao, and Mainland China.

This measure has triggered a negative reaction on both local and international levels, particularly because it infringes on Hong Kong’s Basic Law.

Articles 22 and 27 of Hong Kong’s Basic Law state that Hong Kong is in control of its own affairs including immigration and guarantees that freedom of speech is protected. 

“The government has failed to uphold their power to handle the issuing of work visas for foreign journalists in Hong Kong as provided under the Basic Law,” says Chris Yeung, chairman of the Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA).

Mr Cédric Alviani, East Asia head of Reporters Without Borders (RSF), also criticises the HKSAR government for “neglect[ing] its duty by failing to defend [press freedom].”

A statement released by the Hong Kong government stands by the decision of the Chinese Foreign Ministry, claiming it was a response to the US’ limitation of Chinese nationals working in state-run media and that China continues to follow its state policy of “opening-up”. 

Although the statement insists that Hong Kong still “enjoys press freedoms,” Hong Kong lawmaker Mr Charles Mok is not convinced.

“The freedom of the press in Hong Kong will be destroyed if the Hong Kong government decides to comply with Beijing to silence international media and purge journalists and other local media from the city”, says Mr Mok.

Mr Alviani argues that this turn of events extends beyond the back and forth rivalry between the US and China. A RSF report published last year revealed China’s strategy to control information beyond its borders, which has the potential to threaten press freedom worldwide. 

“This is not the latest episode of a ‘media war’ between the US and China but rather the latest of China’s aggressive moves against press freedom in the world.”

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