Call to uphold press freedom in Hong Kong

Open Letter: Hong

Kong                                                                                

August 29, 2011

 

 

Donald Tsang Yam-Kuen

Chief Executive

Hong Kong Special Administrative Region

 

Re: Call to uphold press freedom in Hong

Kong

 

Dear Chief Executive Tsang,

 

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is deeply concerned that freedom of the press in Hong Kong has been undermined

by Hong Kong police and government officials

after a series of events since July 1.

 

Hong Kong has a long-standing

tradition of respect for civil liberties including press freedom, freedom of

expression and freedom of assembly. Under section 27 of Chapter 3 of the Basic

Law of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, and section 8 of the Bill of

Rights Ordinance it is stated that freedom of expression, the press,

publications, demonstrations and assemblies are guaranteed for all. However,

the IFJ has noted a rapid erosion of these rights in the period since the

appointment of Hong Kong Police Commissioner Andy Tsang in January 2011.

 

On July 1, Kiri Choy, an intern journalist with New Tang Dynasty

Television, and David Cheung, a citizen journalist with Green Radio, were

detained by police when they were unable to

produce their press cards when questioned. They were arrested and detained at a

police station in Aberdeen, Hong

Kong for more than 10 hours. Police Commissioner Tsang denied the

arrests and detention of Choy and Cheung had occurred when questioned by media on

July 9

 

On August 11, Emily Tsang, of Ming Pao, Cathy Tang, of Sing Tao, and James Yan, of Capital Weekly, were detained by

police for at least six hours on accusations of attempted burglary after they had registered and received a visitor’s permit at the

reception office of the New Government Complex in Hong Kong.

 

On August 18, Sit Ka-Kit, a camera operator with Now Television, was prevented

by an unknown person from filming the visit of Chinese First Vice Premier Li

Keqiang to Laguna City , Kowloon , Hong Kong . A police officer in uniform failed to act on

Sit’s complaint that he had been prevented from performing his professional duty,

and that the person responsible had refused to identify themselves.

 

Another journalist, Iris Hui, of a local radio broadcaster, was

subjected to an arbitrary security check on August 16 when she covered Li’s

trip to Hong Kong. She said a police officer

examined the contents of her wallet without explanation. Under Hong Kong law, police can only conduct such searches when

they have reasonable grounds to believe a person may have committed a crime.

 

Other journalists faced obstructions or were prevented from reporting on

about 20 of Li’s scheduled activities, according to IFJ affiliate the Hong Kong

Journalists’ Association (HKJA). Hong Kong media

were granted access to fewer than half of the activities scheduled during Li’s

visit. Remaining activities were mainly reported on by the Government

Information Office.

 

The IFJ notes that various government officials including the Chief

Executive had explained that restrictions on media coverage of Li’s visit were

due to limited space at some events. However, we also note that the Government

Information Office edited footage before it was disseminated to media. This is

a violation of Section 27 of Chapter 3 of Hong Kong’s Basic Law, which protects

media from government interference.  

 

We are concerned by the remarks of Hong Kong Chief Secretary Henry Tang

Ying-Yen, who dismissed questions from journalists regarding the tightening of security

for Li’s Hong Kong visit and said allegations that press freedom had been

undermined were “complete rubbish”. Tang’s remark was deleted in the subsequent

media release issued by government officials.

 

Foreign media were also subject to widespread restrictions during Li’s

visit. A foreign journalist complained to the Government Information Office that

only two people were permitted to attend Li’s speech at Hong Kong University.

Many citizens and university students were also prevented from attending, and were

detained by police for wearing T-shirts with the slogan “Redress June 4”, in

reference to the 1989 Tiananmen Square Massacre.

 

The IFJ is aware that various government officials, including yourself

as the Chief Executive, have made a public commitment that the Government of

Hong Kong will continue to respect press freedom.

 

We respectfully request that you honour this commitment, including by

ensuring that the Government of Hong Kong does not discriminate against local

and foreign media.

 

We are deeply concerned by growing evidence that police in Hong Kong are

employing similar tactics as those used by security personnel on the Mainland

to obstruct media personnel in the conduct of their work and to restrict media

freedoms.  

 

Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion

and expression; the right includes freedom to hold opinions without

interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any

media regardless of frontiers. This sentiment is reiterated in the International Covenant on Civil and Political

Rights. By the virtue of the Hong Kong’s Basic

Law , the ICCPR is recognised under section 39 . The Government of Hong Kong

has a legal obligation therefore to honour its commitment to apply the ICCPR’s principles.

 

 

The IFJ urges the Chief Executive of Hong Kong to address growing

concerns about restrictions on media freedoms in Hong Kong.

We request that you instruct all senior government officials to fully recognise

and implement the rights to press freedom enshrined in the Basic Law.

 

We further urge Chief Secretary Henry Tang to meet with our affiliate,

the HKJA, and an IFJ representative in order to discuss our concerns.

 

Furthermore, we urge the legislators of the Security Panel of the Hong

Kong Legislative Council to carefully examine the issues of police power in a meeting

planned for August 29, to discuss the conduct of police in Hong

Kong during Li’s visit.

 

We fully support the HKJA‘s calls for Hong Kong Police

Commissioner Andy Tsang to offer an apology to media who organised a protest in response to police tactics on

August 20. The IFJ endorses the demands of the group of more than 300

journalists, including students and citizen , who organised the protest.

 

Beth Costa

IFJ General Secretary

August 29, 2011

 

c.c.

 

Henry Tang Ying-Yen

Chief Secretary of HKSAR

 

Ambrose Lee Siu-Kwong

Secretary for Security of HKSAR

 

Security Panel :

 

James To Kun-sun

Chairman

 

Lau Kong-wah

Deputy Chairman

 

Albert Ho Chun-yan

 

Dr. Margaret NG

 

Cheung Man-Kwong

 

Dr Philip Wong Yu-Hong

 

Wong Yung-Kan

 

Emily Lau Wai-Hing

 

Timothy Fok Tsun-Ting

 

Abraham Shek Lai-Him

 

Audrey Eu Yuet-Mee

 

Andrew Leung Kwan-Yuen

 

Chim Pui-Chung

 

Cyd Ho Sau-Lan

 

Dr. Lam Tai-Fai

 

Chan Hak-Kan

 

Wong Kwok-Kin

 

Ip Kwok-Him

 

Dr. Pan Pey-Chyou

 

Paul Tse Wai-Chun

 

Leung Kwok-Hung

 

Wong Yuk-Man

 

          For further information contact IFJ

Asia-Pacific on +612 9333 0919

 

The IFJ

represents more than 600,000 journalists in 131 countries

 

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IFJ on Twitter: @ifjasiapacific

 

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