The New York Times shifts digital base to Seoul citing work permits challenges

Local | 15 Jul 2020 10:21 am

The New York Times on Wednesday said it was moving its digital news hub from Hong Kong to South Korea as a result of a national security law Beijing imposed on the city.

"China's sweeping new national security law in Hong Kong has created a lot of uncertainty about what the new rules will mean to our operation and our journalism," executives wrote in an email to staff, according to a news report published on the New York Times website, AFP reports.

"We feel it is prudent to make contingency plans and begin to diversify our editing staff around the region."

The newspaper has had a regional headquarters in Hong Kong for decades, overseeing Asia coverage and more recently helping to run the newspaper's 24-hour digital news operation.

In its own news report, the Times said it would move its digital team of journalists -- roughly one-third of its Hong Kong employees —- to Seoul over the next year.

It is the first major relocation by an international news organisation since Beijing imposed a sweeping security law on Hong Kong late last month.

The new law has sent a chill through the city because its broad wording criminalises some political speech and ramps up Communist Party control over the city.

One provision expressly calls upon authorities to "strengthen the management" of foreign news organisations.

The Times report said it had recently "faced challenges securing work permits" for its staff in Hong Kong, something it said was "commonplace in China but were rarely an issue in the former colony".

Hong Kong has been a major regional hub for international media for decades thanks to its easy business environment and key civil liberties that Beijing pledged to protect until 2047 under the handover deal with Britain.

Alongside the New York Times, media organisations that have major regional hubs in Hong Kong include AFP, CNN, the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg and the Financial Times.

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