This article is a summary of reports published between August 4 and 10, 2018 on Hong Kong Free Press. The reissue is based on a partnership agreement.
A recent war of words between the former Hong Kong managing director and the local club of foreign correspondents shows how Beijing is forcing Hong Kong journalists, local and international, to respect its political red line.
The incident began when the Foreign Correspondents’ Club (FCC) announced on July 30 that political party leader Andy Chan Ho Tin would give a talk at the Club on August 14, entitled “Hong Kong Nationalism: A Politically Incorrect Guide on Hong Kong under Chinese Rule ”.
Hong Kong is a special administrative region of China with more economic and personal freedoms than the mainland, a configuration known as “One country, two systems.” In recent years, Beijing has pressured Hong Kong to pass new laws that strengthen the “One Country” part of the principle.
Shortly afterwards, a representative from the Chinese Foreign Ministry’s commissioner’s office in Hong Kong visited the FCC and urged them to reconsider the decision.
Chan is the chairman of the Hong Kong National Party (HKNP), which advocates for Hong Kong’s full independence from China. Last month, the Hong Kong Police Company Registration Department issued a legal recommendation to the Security Secretary to ban HKNP as a political party. Quoting Section 8 (1) (a) of the Hong Kong Companies Ordinance, the department said it would be “in the interest of national security, public safety, public order, protection of the liberty and rights of others ”.
After reviewing the past activities of the HKNP and Andy Chan’s talks, law enforcement authorities concluded that the HKNP was a threat to national security. The recommendation stated:
The government of the Hong Kong SAR must not wait for a political movement to resort to violence before intervening … Even if the political movement has not yet attempted to seize power and the danger of its policies does not is not imminent, the government of the Hong Kong SAR must take preventive measures because the HKNP The movement began to take concrete action in public to implement a goal inconsistent with the laws.
Police handed Chan a 900-page dossier detailing his and the party’s activities and outlining his proposal to ban the group. Chan must respond to the case by September 4.
The visit to the Chinese Foreign Ministry’s FCC was not necessarily a sign of a problem. Hong Kong media organizations are used to receiving “political advice” from Beijing officials.
But tensions began to escalate when former Hong Kong general manager Leung “CY” Chun-ying stepped in and criticized the FCC for crossing a so-called “red line”:
Hong Kong’s independence is clearly and definitely a red line. Advocating the independence of Hong Kong is tantamount to advocating the resurgence of the country and constitutes an attack on the sovereignty and territorial integrity of China. Today the FCC invites Andy Chan to talk about the independence of Hong Kong, tomorrow he could invite others to talk about the independence of Taiwan, Xinjiang and Tibet. What would become of Hong Kong?
In response to CY Leung’s “red line” comment, Victor Mallett, FCC’s senior vice president, restored the value of free speech.
Leung then posted an open letter on Facebook, in which he compared Andy Chan’s hosting to criminal and terrorist activity:
Presumably, then, you will defend your decision by also asserting that those who oppose Taiwan’s independence would have the same opportunity to present their views. By following this logic, you are unlikely to draw any lines against criminals and terrorists. As I said, we should be very concerned.
He further claimed that FCC had paid “nominal rent”. In comments, his supporters pleaded for the Hong Kong government to take back the property.
Leung’s claim was refuted by former FCC board member Francis Moriarty as an ill-informed threat:
Leung is completely wrong about the rent… When I left the FC board three years ago, we were paying around 550,000 HKD (70,060 USD) per month and were fully responsible for the upkeep of the historic building. .
Chris Yeung Kin-hing, president of the Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKAJ), saw Leung’s comment as “blatant political pressure”:
Leung is essentially asking the FCC to cancel Chan’s conference and stop inviting similar guests in the future, otherwise the lease might not be renewed or even be resumed sooner… This is blatant political pressure.
But CY Leung’s argument has been echoed by many pro-Beijing media and politicians. On August 8, a group of 30 protesters took to the streets and demonstrated outside the FCC in Central to demand that Andy Chan’s speech be quashed.
Ex-leader CY Leung says he is not threatening press club against pro-independence speaker, amid new protest https://t.co/YtqKSZoVzv @IndexCensorship @IFEX @cnmediaproject #freedom of the press @FCCHK @krislc #Hong Kong @RSF_eastasia pic.twitter.com/4RoQ31VtbK
– Hong Kong Free Press (@HongKongFP) August 8, 2018
The FCC has resisted political pressure and the interview is still scheduled to take place on August 14. Nonetheless, political pressure took hold on other local media.
The city’s public broadcaster, Radio Television Hong Kong, Leung Ka-wing, told a regular meeting on August 9 that the broadcaster should not be used to defend Hong Kong independence and banned the live broadcast of Andy Chan’s speech to the FCC. The RTHK program staff union explained that the decision whether or not to broadcast a live event is usually made by the section chief of the various program teams after internal deliberation. It is unusual for the leader to make a decision this way.
More than half of local media owners in Hong Kong also sit on government bodies appointed by Beijing, such as the National People’s Congress. Even though there is no law in place to prosecute media for presenting political dissent, the FCC saga sends a strong signal to media owners and their information management teams on the “red line. “. The effects are more than chilling.