Tuesday, December 1, 2015   

Freedoms eroded to please Beijing: report

A staff reporter

Monday, July 02, 2001

FREEDOM of expression is being eroded thanks to the

government's desire to do Beijing's bidding, according to a local

journalists' association.

Official attacks on the Falun Gong movement, pressure on reporting

Taiwan, and prosecutions under laws which contravene human rights

standards were singled out in a joint report published yesterday by

the Hong Kong Journalists Association and Article 19, a UK-based,

international watchdog on censorship.

"We know that the Chinese government and the Hong Kong authorities

have an interest in conserving, to some degree, the openness and


freedoms of the city," the report's compilers said.

"However, it is being made perfectly clear that certain activities

and forms of speech taken for granted in established democracies will

no longer be tolerated in Hong Kong.

"We hope the authorities . . . will take note of our recommendations

and call upon them to respect their obligation to safeguard not only

the right to freedom of expression, but also to uphold and enhance the

related rights of freedom of information, assembly and association."

The free flow of information is one of the four pillars of the Hong

Kong system, according to senior officials, alongside the rule of law,

clean and transparent government and a level playing field for


The report highlights the comments made by Tung Chee-hwa and other

officials "vilifying" the Falun Gong. "What is plain," its authors

said, "is that the shrill rhetoric threatens open debate by

encouraging self-censorship."

The report also cites several incidents that are cause for concern:

President Jiang Zemin's critical comments about the Hong Kong media

during his "I'm angry" outburst in Beijing last October, underlined

by his call in December in Macau for the media to pay attention to

social responsibilities;

The resignation of Willy Wo-Lap Lam, China editor of the Sound China

Morning Post, after he believed he had been sidelined following public

criticism of his reporting by the newspaper's controlling shareholder,

Robert Kuok Hock Nien.

The report also describes as ominous signs the use of the public order

law to exert pressure on demonstrators, including students, and

further prosecutions under the law banning desecration of Hong Kong

flags and emblems.

Mak Yin-ting, who chairs the journalists' association, said: "More

and more newspapers self-censor themselves because they are controlled

by either a businessman with close ties to Beijing, or part of a large

enterprise, which has financial interests over the border."

Ms Mak criticised the "rosy picture" drawn by reporting of the

"Go-West" campaign, giving rise to another worry that Hong Kong

media toe the Beijing line. She said television coverage failed to

give much insight into the complex economic problems in the western


The government hit back at the accusations. "The allegation by the

Hong Kong Journalists Association that human rights and freedoms in

Hong Kong are being eroded is groundless," a spokesman said.

"Ever since the establishment of the HKSAR, the government has

faithfully implemented the Basic Law. Human rights and freedoms are

fully protected. The media in Hong Kong have maintained their

vigilance in commenting on current affairs and in holding the

government accountable.

"When the World Association of Newspapers' Congress was held in Hong

Kong in June, both local and foreign media representatives

acknowledged the successful implementation of `One Country, Two

Systems' and affirmed that the freedom of speech had been upheld."

On Falun Gong, the spokesman reiterated the government's view that the

group must be watched in the interest of public order and safety. He

also described media reports on western China as "objective and


Hong Kong Journalists Association


Article 19


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