July 28, 2021

How Press Freedom Is Being Eroded in Hong Kong

In June 2020, the Chinese government imposed a sweeping national security law meant to stamp out opposition to its rule in Hong Kong, a former British colony that was returned to Beijing in 1997. The law was enacted after months of antigovernment protests in Hong Kong that posed the greatest political challenge to Beijing in decades, with some protesters calling for the territory’s independence.

While the law is focused on the four crimes of terrorism, subversion, secession and collusion with foreign forces, the vague way it is written has implications for the news media, legal experts say. Hong Kong’s chief of police, Chris Tang, warned earlier this year that the police would investigate news outlets deemed to be endangering national security, citing Apple Daily as an example.

Officials have not provided much clarity on what that means. In comments this week, Carrie Lam, Hong Kong’s chief executive, suggested that it was up to journalists themselves to figure out how to avoid breaking the national security law. The law should not affect “normal journalistic work,” she said, though she did not explain what she considered normal.

With no one sure where the lines are, a common response has been self-censorship. Journalists avoid certain topics in interviews, activists have deleted their social media histories and libraries have pulled books by pro-democracy figures off the shelves for review. Activists, academics and others are also less willing to speak openly, a reluctance that was reinforced last month when a judge, explaining why a former lawmaker charged under the national security law had been denied bail, cited comments she had made in interviews as well as in private WhatsApp messages to reporters.

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/06/23/world/asia/hong-kong-press-freedom.html

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