The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is concerned by recent interventions by China’s Central Government in seeking to cancel or postpone talks organised by the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Hong Kong (FCC).
According to local media reports, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs contacted the FCC in relation to two separate events involving guest speakers Kate Saunders, Communications Director of the Washington-based International Campaign for Tibet, and Thailand’s ousted former Prime Minister, Thaksin Shinawatra.
In a statement on March 13, the FCC said the Ministry had expressed concern about not being invited to reply to a scheduled speech by Saunders. It requested that the event be cancelled or postponed until the Chinese Government could find a speaker to present its view.
While the FCC declined to cancel the event, arrangements were reportedly made to postpone the discussion until a Chinese representative was nominated to deliver a reply. The FCC said the event would go ahead in early April even if the Government did not provide a speaker.
It was the second time this month that the FCC was notified of government concerns about the club’s program of guest speakers. An event in which Thaksin Shinawatra was scheduled to deliver a speech was postponed, reportedly because Thaksin could not attend due to government agitation. Thaksin eventually gave the speech by video link.
“The IFJ advocates that all voices in a debate be heard, and the Government of China is entitled to offer its point of view in public discussions. However, it is inappropriate for any government or official to make demands that have the effect of stalling or restricting the free expression of diverse opinions,” IFJ General Secretary Aidan White said.
The IFJ urges the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Hong Kong to cooperate with the FCC in promptly nominating a representative to deliver the government’s point of view in the discussion with Kate Saunders.
For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +612 9333 0919
The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 120 countries worldwide