Open Letter: Hong
August 29, 2011
Donald Tsang Yam-Kuen
Hong Kong Special Administrative Region
Re: Call to uphold press freedom in Hong
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
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
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
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.
IFJ General Secretary
August 29, 2011
Henry Tang Ying-Yen
Chief Secretary of HKSAR
Ambrose Lee Siu-Kwong
Secretary for Security of HKSAR
Security Panel :
James To Kun-sun
Albert Ho Chun-yan
Dr. Margaret NG
Dr Philip Wong Yu-Hong
Emily Lau Wai-Hing
Timothy Fok Tsun-Ting
Abraham Shek Lai-Him
Audrey Eu Yuet-Mee
Andrew Leung Kwan-Yuen
Cyd Ho Sau-Lan
Dr. Lam Tai-Fai
Dr. Pan Pey-Chyou
Paul Tse Wai-Chun
For further information contact IFJ
Asia-Pacific on +612 9333 0919
represents more than 600,000 journalists in 131 countries
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