The joint actions follow the adoption, on June 30, 2020, of a national security law by Beijing and the subsequent use of the law by Hong Kong authorities to target journalists. The imposition of national security legislation has seen press freedom and independent media come under severe threat. In light of the deeply concerning decline in media freedoms in Hong Kong, the IFJ-led actions strongly condemn the new legislation and express deep concern for its ramifications for the citizens of Hong Kong.
Twenty media unions from countries across the Asia Pacific issued the statement saying: “The threats against press freedom, independent media and the erosion of democracy not only hampers democracy, but weakens Hong Kong’s standing in the eyes of the world. Journalism is not a crime. The authorities must protect freedom of expression and the rights of journalists in Hong Kong.”
The other statement from a coalition of groups comprising Alliance for Journalists’ Freedom (AJF), Article 19, Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD), Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Freedom House, IFEX, and Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said: “Hong Kong has long been respected as a powerful global economic hub and lively political and democratic space, supported by a proud and strong independent media. Yet the imposition of the new national security law has undermined fundamental rights and freedom of expression and severely damages Hong Kong’s autonomy.”
The national security law provides for criminal penalties of up to life imprisonment for the broadly-defined crimes of secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign powers. To date, Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam has remained silent on how the law might be applied against journalists and the media.
Since the law’s introduction, police have arrested a number of prominent pro-democracy voices like Apple Daily’s Jimmy Lai, pro-democracy activist and politician Agnes Chow and activists Wilson Li and Andy Li.
The IFJ said: “The current situation in Hong Kong is gravely concerning not only for media, but for all Hong Kong citizens. These joint statements call on authorities to respect democracy and human rights in Hong Kong, noting that a failure to do so will undermine not only individual freedoms but also the stability and economic success of Hong Kong.”