Hong Kong’s new national security law is causing international news organizations to consider if they should continue to keep an office in the Chinese territory.
Since World War II, many of the world’s largest news organizations have Asia headquarters in Hong Kong. Its open media environment, respect for rule of law and nearness to China were valuable qualities.
But the territory known as “China’s freest city” is fast losing that image following the establishment of the new law. The measure is the latest move by the central government to end self-rule policy for Hong Kong.
The legislation is a response to pro-democracy demonstrations, some violent, held during the past year. But, the law’s loosely-defined terms are widely seen as a direct threat to the right of free speech.
The New York Times was the first to announce it would move. The company said it would send about 30 percent of its Hong Kong office to South Korea.
The paper said it will keep reporters in Hong Kong to cover the city, but also said it is becoming more difficult to do so.
Earlier this year, China expelled American reporters working for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post from the mainland. The government also barred them from reporting in Hong Kong.
Since the expulsions, The Washington Post has moved at least two reporters from China to South Korea.
The Wall Street Journal and the French news agency AFP are also considering their future in Hong Kong, CNN reported.
This week, the Hong Kong Free Press said the security law may also lead it to move operations outside of Hong Kong. The English-language newspaper heavily covers the territory’s pro-democracy movement.
However, its leader and founder, Tom Grundy recently wrote in The Guardian,“our newsroom is here to stay.”
China says the law is designed to prevent secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreigners.
But part of the law says officials must “strengthen the management” of foreign news organizations, nongovernmental organizations and other international groups.
The term is not further explained but many foreign reporters believe it means restrictions on news media content.
Even before the new law, press freedoms in Hong Kong had been shrinking. Increasingly, police have blocked, attacked, and arrested reporters covering pro-democracy demonstrations.
That showed people what was to come “which was the start of the extension of mainland-style media and political control to Hong Kong,” says Ben Bland. He is a former China correspondent for the Financial Times, who was based in Hong Kong.
No obvious substitute
However, many experts say foreign media will be slow to fully leave Hong Kong. One reason, they argue, is that there is nowhere better for them to go.
Taipei would be risky, the experts say, as such a move could anger China. It considers Taiwan its territory and rejects any self-declared independence.
Tokyo is a democracy with a free press, but the Japanese city is also a costly place to live. Some organizations may not have enough money to base many reporters in Tokyo.
The New York Times said it likes South Korea because of…”its friendliness to foreign business, independent press, and its central role in several major Asian news stories.”
I’m Susan Shand.
VOA’s William Gallo reported this story. Susan Shand adapted it for Learning English. Caty Weaver was the editor.
Words in This Story
secession– n. the decision by a region or state to leave a country
collusion - n. to act in concert with a person or organization
management– n. the controlling authority of a company or business
role – n. a position or part in something