Hong Kong Journalists Expect More Media Arrests, Say Freedom 'in Free Fall'

The recent closure of the Apple Daily newspaper accelerates a citywide crackdown on dissenting voices in the public sphere.
2021-06-29
Share
Hong Kong Journalists Expect More Media Arrests, Say Freedom 'in Free Fall' Protesters gather in front of the China's embassy in Paris in support to the Hong Kong Apple Daily, a pro-democracy tabloid which was forced to close under Hong Kong's new national security law, June 25, 2021.
AFP
Journalists in Hong Kong are warning that more and more people working for media organizations are likely to be targeted for arrest under a draconian national security law imposed by China one year ago.

Allan Au, who was fired by government broadcaster RTHK from his current affairs show Open Line Open View on Monday after hosting it for 11 years, said on Tuesday that there is currently a purge under way at the station following a change of senior management and a new supervisory structure, both of which were imposed by the government earlier this year.

"What we have seen over the past few months is that RTHK has been using all its administrative power to do whatever it wants, to remove people and voices it doesn't like," Au told Commercial Radio on Tuesday.

He accused RTHK's management of acting against the spirit of public service broadcasting, according to RTHK's English news service.

RTHK's Programme Staff Union said via its Facebook page that the move was "extremely worrying."

"We regret this sad decision, and are extremely worried that these means that balancing, critical voices are now disappearing from the airwaves," the statement said.

It also expressed concern over a recent decision to scrap two programs, the culture-focused RTHK Talk Show and current affairs talk show This Week.

"This union is [also] worried that RTHK will no longer tolerate academic discussions about literature, philosophy and history, because they are tantamount to thought crimes," it said.

Fung Wai-kong, managing editor and chief opinion writer for shuttered pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily's English website, who wrote under the pen-name Lo Fung, leaves the police headquarters in Hong Kong, after he was released on bail following his arrest the previous day under the National Security Law, June 29, 2021. Credit: AFP
Fung Wai-kong, managing editor and chief opinion writer for shuttered pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily's English website, who wrote under the pen-name Lo Fung, leaves the police headquarters in Hong Kong, after he was released on bail following his arrest the previous day under the National Security Law, June 29, 2021. Credit: AFP

'Terrifying' decline in press freedom

 

Former Hong Kong Journalists' Association (HKJA) chairman Chris Yeung, who once likened press freedom in Hong Kong to a roller-coaster ride, told RFA in a recent interview that it is now in "free fall."

"It has been a roller coaster, but in the past four years it has been falling, falling into a deep valley, and the car never rolls back up again," Yeung said.

"The rate of decline in the past year or even in the past two weeks has been terrifying," he said. "I daren't even think about whether it will ever improve again."

Current HKJA chairman Ronson Chan, told local media on Monday that the forced closure of the pro-democracy Apple Daily newspaper last week after several staff arrests and an asset freeze under the national security law is already having a knock-on effect in the industry.

Stand News, an online news service where Chan works as deputy assignment editor, deleted its commentary and op-ed articles after the arrests of two former columnists for the Apple Daily for "collusion with foreign powers," with police citing dozens of the paper's articles as evidence for the charges.

"We can still see many well-known journalists or commentary writers being arrested," Chan told government broadcaster RTHK. 


"We are afraid that they have a list and still many journalists or commentary writers will be targeted by the police. So I'm afraid that the arrests will continue."

Chan had earlier told RFA that the authorities' "red lines" keep moving, making it hard for media organizations to avoid running afoul of the law, which bans public speech against the Hong Kong government and the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

As Stand News was deleting articles, online media 852 Post removed its videos from its YouTube channel, describing the political atmosphere in Hong Kong as "akin to a black rainstorm warning or a No. 10 typhoon signal."

On the same day, the Facebook page of pro-democracy activist Agnes Chow disappeared from the social media platform, although her accounts on Twitter, Instagram and YouTube remained on Tuesday.

Chow, a former leader of the 2014 pro-democracy movement and a founding member of the now-disbanded political party Demosisto, served a 10-month jail term for "illegal assembly" in connection with a mass protest and siege of police headquarters on June 21, 2019.

She was released on June 12, 2021.



Reported by Fok Leung Kiu for RFA's Cantonese Service, and by Lu Xi for the Mandarin Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.
Add comment

Add your comment by filling out the form below in plain text. Comments are approved by a moderator and can be edited in accordance with RFAs Terms of Use. Comments will not appear in real time. RFA is not responsible for the content of the postings. Please, be respectful of others' point of view and stick to the facts.

View Full Site