Sword over heads of journalists

Top News | Phoenix Un and Jane Cheung 4 Apr 2019

The safety of reporters would be under threat if the fugitive-law amendment is approved, a joint statement by journalist groups claims.

The amendment first frustrated the business sector and pan-democrats. Now journalist groups have voiced their fears.

Four groups - the Hong Kong Journalist Association and Hong Kong Press Photographers Association, trade unions of several print media, six online media and the director of the School of Communication and Journalism of the Chinese University of Hong Kong, Francis Lee Lap-fung - issued the statement.

They are concerned not only of threats to journalists' safety, but also the "chilling effect" on the freedom of expression.

"Numerous journalists have been charged or harassed by mainland authorities under criminal offenses covered by the amendment, " the statement said.

It suggested several Hong Kong journalists working in the mainland were alleged to have committed crimes on the list of misdeeds permitting extradition, such as drug possession and bribery.

"The amendment would make it possible for mainland authorities to demand the surrender of journalists in Hong Kong, citing all kinds of unfounded charges," the statement said.

It said the amendment would be a sword hanging over the head of journalists and muzzle both the media and whistleblowers.

Civil groups, together with several pan-democrats, also protested outside Civic Square just before the first reading, demanding the government withdraw the amendment.

Convener of the Progressive Lawyers Group Chris Ng Chung-luen said the amendment itself would drill a loophole in the system.

"We might have believed before that we only need to avoid going to the mainland if we are afraid [of the judiciary there], but people of all nationalities cannot have their safety guaranteed after the amendment is passed," Ng said.

He said it would be impossible for anybody extradited to the mainland to have a fair trial there.

Financier Conscience spokesman Edward Chan Hon-fai said the amendment imposes huge pressure on workers in the financial sector who fear they may unknowingly commit crimes in the mainland and be extradited there after returning to Hong Kong.

Chan also fears the SAR may lose its role as an international financial hub.

But Executive Council member Ronny Tong Ka-wah dismissed concerns about the level of rule of law in the mainland, declaring that the judicial system there should not be a factor when considering the amendment.

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