‘Know your place’: Beijing accuses Hong Kong press club of being an ‘outside force’ interfering in China’s internal affairs
Beijing criticized the “unwarranted remarks” of the Hong Kong Foreign Correspondents’ Club on curtailing press freedoms in the city, accusing it of being an outside force interfering with China’s internal affairs and undermining the state city law.
The club “strongly condemned” the sentencing of journalist Bao Choy last Thursday. Choy had accessed public records while producing a documentary on the police response to an attack on protesters and civilians in Yuen Long during the 2019 protests.
“The government’s actions against Choy set a dangerous precedent,” the club’s statement read Thursday. They open the door to further legal proceedings against journalists for participating in routine reporting. They will also deter journalists from accessing legally available public archives in Hong Kong. “
“It is clear that Choy was picked and punished for a search that is regularly carried out by journalists in Hong Kong,” the statement added.
Choy was convicted of two counts under the Highway Traffic Ordinance for accessing public car registration records RTHK film about a mob attack at a train station against civilians and pro-democracy protesters in July 2019. The incident marked a turning point in the movement and sowed distrust of the forces, who were seen leaving the places.
The court ruled that Choy “knowingly submitted false statements” to gain access to the records. The independent producer had faced up to six months in jail, but was eventually fined a total of HK $ 6,000.
‘Know your place’
In response, a spokesperson for the Beijing representative office in Hong Kong expressed “strong disapproval and” firm opposition “to the press club’s comments. “Such comments openly vilified the SAR government and flouted the rule of law under the pretext of press freedom, and amounted to blatant interference in the affairs of Hong Kong, which are China’s internal affairs,” a statement said on Friday.
The spokesperson also called on the press club to “know its place”, saying that “Hong Kong is part of China”.
“We urge the FCC and relevant external forces to face the facts, know their place, genuinely respect the rule of law and judicial independence of Hong Kong, and avoid saying one thing but do another, let alone meddle in Hong Kong affairs and China’s internal affairs at large under the pretext of press freedom, ”the spokesperson said.
Growing tensions over press freedom in Hong Kong come as China grows more intolerant of foreign press within its borders as international concern grows over reports of foreign press. state of massive human rights violations against Uyghur Muslims in its Xinjiang region.
Beijing has expelled at least 18 foreign journalists in the past year, while reporters on the ground cite increasing pressure and surveillance. Earlier this month, Beijing attacked the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China, calling it an “illegal organization.”
The Hong Kong Foreign Correspondents’ Club came under pressure in 2018 after inviting pro-Hong Kong independence activist Andy Chan to speak at an event, HKFP revealed at the time. The club’s current lease on Lower Albert Road expires January 1, 2023.
‘An unprecedented challenge’
Meanwhile, police said the “fake news” was an “unprecedented challenge” for Hong Kong and welcomed any new legislation that would help safeguard the rule of law.
His comments were made in response to an open letter from the press club urging the force to clarify the police commissioner’s statements on the need to take action against the “fake news.”
“We share the common idea that disinformation and conspiracy theories can pose challenges and dangers to society. Since 2019 … fake news and biased media coverage also play a central role in jeopardizing the public interest, ”the police response said on Friday.
“Hong Kong police always respect freedom of speech, freedom of the press and freedom of publication. As long as the operational efficiency of the Gendarmerie is not compromised, the police officers will facilitate the work of professional report ”, one also reads in the letter.
Student journalists and local media reporters were arrested last November for “obstructing” protests in 2019. The force also barred access to several media outlets during their pro-democracy raid Apple Daily offices last August, with Police Commissioner Chris Tang saying only “trusted media” should be allowed in the closed premises.
Choy’s conviction and the authorities’ pledge to take action against the “fake news” are the latest developments that have raised concerns from international rights groups over a continued erosion of press freedom around the world. Hong Kong under a national security law imposed by Beijing in response to the 2019 protests.
French free expression NGO Reporters Without Borders warned that the security law posed a “serious threat” to press freedom while Amnesty International’s Hong Kong office spoke of “unprecedented pressure” on city reporters.