On August 12th, Chief Executive Carrie Lam replied in writing through her private secretary Ms. Maggie Wong to the open letter sent on July 26th by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) Secretary General Christophe Deloire which was published in six media, namely: South China Morning Post, Apple Daily News, Liberty Times, Hong Kong Free Press, Taipei Times and BuzzOrange. In this letter, RSF presented five requests to restore full press freedom in the Chinese Special Administrative Region.
In her response (see full text in attachment), Chief Executive claims that the Extradition Bill is not a threat to journalists and their sources. She ensures that the Hong Kong law enforcement respects “the rights of the media to report on public events and incidents” and promises that they will “actively investigate illegal and violent acts”. Regarding the overall status of press freedom in Hong Kong, she emphasises the “long established mechanisms” in facilitating the work of journalists, which include “24-hour media enquiry services.”
“This canned response fails to convince as it uses the same unsubstantial arguments put forth since the beginning of the crisis,'' declared RSF Secretary General Christophe Deloire. “Carrie Lam must recognise the seriousness of the threat to journalists before she is on track to restoring full press freedom in Hong Kong."
Since early June, Hong Kong has seen massive demonstrations against an extradition bill which Carrie Lam proclaims to be “dead” but has yet to be formally withdrawn. During the protests, police and pro-Beijing mobs have attacked journalists on numerous occasions.
Below are the main contents of the Hong Kong Chief Executive's response (in bold), followed by RSF’s comments:
- “It is not correct to say that the [Extradition] Bill was a threat to journalists and their sources”. RSF: The Chinese regime has shown many times that it needs no solid grounds to attack critical voices in Hong Kong. If the extradition bill were passed, Beijing would no longer have to resort to abduction, and would simply be able to legally seize whomever they wish to silence under made-up accusations.
- “Police respects the freedom of the press and the rights of the media to report on public events and incidents”. RSF: During the mass demonstrations over the last two months, police have targeted journalists on numerous occasions, firing tear gas at close range, using batons against them, and flashing powerful beams to interfere with photographing and filming.
- “Police will actively investigate illegal and violent acts to bring offenders to justice.” RSF: Many voices, including a group of fifty HKSAR’s Government Information Officers, in an open letter, have called for an independent investigation to shed light on brutalities by the police and pro-Beijing mobs.
- “HKSAR Government has long established mechanisms and a proven track record of facilitating media work and providing information to the media and the members of the public”. RSF: In a report published on July 7th, the Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA) deplored “one of the worst years” for journalists since the handover of the former British colony to China and denounced “a deliberate policy” to restrict journalistic freedoms.
- “The information services department and the Hong Kong police force both operate 24 hours media enquiry services.” Chief Executive Carrie Lam, members of her administration and the representative of the law enforcement consistently gave canned responses that avoided questions in press conferences, to the frustration of many journalists.
Read the open letter by RSF (in French, English, and Chinese) here.
Read the HKSAR Chief Executive’s answer (in English and Chinese):