For over 50 years, the Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA) has worked to protect media rights. But now the organization says it is under intense pressure from city officials.
Hong Kong’s government, police and one newspaper recently accused the HKJA of being biased toward pro-democracy newspapers. They also say the HKJA has recruited students as journalists and failed to admit that it blocked police during protests.
Ronson Chan is the head of HKJA. He believes the criticism is part of an effort to force the association to close.
“I would say they are trying to add some pressure to us, maybe they hope to see we may disband as well as other community groups. We won’t,” Chan said.
The HKJA has more than 500 members. It is run by working journalists in Hong Kong. The group’s goals are to improve freedom for journalists and raise professional standards.
But since Hong Kong’s national security law was passed in 2020, the city’s media freedom has come into question.
In its July annual report, the association found that “freedoms have seriously” worsened in Hong Kong. The report mentioned media arrests and the closure of pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily. There were also changes at public media station Radio Television Hong Kong, which led to the canceling of some shows and accusations of bias.
Now, Chan says, the HKJA is in a “thunderstorm” of pressure itself.
Chris Tang is Hong Kong’s Secretary for Security. He spoke with reporters at Ta Kung Pao, a newspaper that supports the government in Beijing. He accused the HKJA of having biased views and favoring pro-democracy news organizations.
Tang said the association’s membership includes many student journalists. He accused HKJA of influencing young reporters and telling young people that “everybody can be a journalist,” even 13-year-olds. Tang was likely talking about a 13-year-old volunteering with a news organization who was arrested during anti-government protests in Hong Kong.
HKJA’s Chan told VOA that the accusations are not new. He called Tang’s comments “illogical.”
He denied that the arrested 13-year-old was a member of the association. He also said journalism students make up “less than 60” of its members.
Tang was not the only official to make claims against the group this month.
Hong Kong’s police chief Raymond Siu Chak-yee said at a police event that the HKJA is biased against the government.
And in an interview with VOA, lawmaker Holden Chow said the HKJA aided protesters during 2019 anti-government rallies.
“There were so-called journalists on the spot assisting the illegal protests, blocking police operations, and some even harassed female police officers,” Chow said.
“We wonder whether HKJA is still a professional” group, Chow told VOA.
Chan, who is an editor at the pro-democracy news site Stand News, said there is no evidence to support the accusations.
Hong Kong is in 80th place in the Reporters Without Borders Press Freedom ranking. The group says the new national security law is “especially dangerous for journalists.”
Freedom of the press is guaranteed under Hong Kong’s Basic Law. But the recent national security law is able to overrule the city’s local laws.
The international group Human Rights Watch has said the national security law is badly harming Hong Kong's press freedoms.
I’m Dan Novak.
Tommy Walker reported this story of Voice of America. Dan Novak adapted it for VOA Learning English. Ashley Thompson was the editor.
Words in This Story
journalism — n. the activity or job of collecting, writing, and editing news stories for newspapers, magazines, television, or radio
biased — adj. having or showing a bias : having or showing an unfair tendency to believe that some people, ideas, etc., are better than others
recruit — v. to find suitable people and get them to join a company, an organization, the armed forces, etc.
disband — v. to end an organization or group (such as a club)
illogical — adj. not showing good judgment : not thinking about things in a reasonable or sensible way : not logical
harass — v. to annoy or bother (someone) in a constant or repeated way
overrule — v. to decide that (something or someone) is wrong : to rule against (something or someone)