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May 26, 2020 - Updated on June 4, 2020

Beijing’s “national security” measures threaten Hong Kong’s journalists

PHOTO: ISAAC LAWRENCE / AFP
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) denounces Beijing’s decision to impose “national security” measures on Hong Kong that will endanger journalists and press freedom in the special administrative region, which is supposed to be autonomous until 2047.

On 28 May, the National People’s Congress, China’s parliament, is expected to vote on a law that will impose measures on Hong Kong to "maintain national security," including dispositions to "prevent and penalize any foreign activities in Hong Kong aiming for secession, subversion, penetration, and destruction".


There is little doubt that by tightening Beijing’s control over Hong Kong, this law will make it easier for the authoritarian Chinese regime to trample on rights, including press freedom, that are supposed to be guaranteed in the former British colony under the “one country, two systems” principle until 2047.


Through a series of street demonstrations last year, which included mass peaceful marches, Hong Kong’s residents managed to get the region’s pro-Beijing administration to abandon a bill allowing extradition to the mainland, which posed a major threat to journalists and their sources.


“If Beijing manages to impose this national security law, Hong Kong’s residents will no longer be able to regard press freedom and journalists’ safety as guaranteed,” said Cédric Alviani, the head of RSF’s East Asia bureau. “National security is the pretext that the Chinese authorities most often use to justify imprisoning journalists in conditions that pose a threat to their lives, sometimes even going so far as to impose a life sentence."


In a report last year, the Hong Kong Journalists Association criticized restrictions on access to official information, an increase in harassment of foreign correspondents and attempts to intimidate independent media advertisers. An RSF report in 2016 already condemned the physical, economic and judicial harassment to which Hong Kong journalists are subjected.


Hong Kong’s ranking in RSF's World Press Freedom Index has fallen from 18th in 2002 to 80th in 2020. The People’s Republic of China, which is the world’s biggest jailer of journalists with more than 113 currently detained, is ranked 177th in the 2020 Index.