The statement released by Hong Kong Free Press (HKFP) on August 27 identified the editor as Irish national Aaron McNicholas. Authorities rejected an application to transfer McNicholas’ work visa after an almost six-month wait, without giving an official reason.
HKFP said that the visa denial is “not another tit-for-tat measure under the US-China trade dispute,” and that they “have been targeted under the climate of the new security law and because of our impartial, fact-based coverage.”
Hong Kong Free Press’s editor-in-chief, Tom Grundy, said it appeared they were “targeted under the climate of the new security law and because of our impartial and fact-based coverage”.
“We are a local news outlet and our prospective editor was a journalist originally from Ireland, so this is not another tit-for-tat measure under the US-China trade dispute,” he said.
HKFP has been noteworthy for delivering frequent coverage on the region’s pro-democracy protests and being critical of Beijing. McNicholas also covered the Hong Kong protests and implementation of the national security law.
The IFJ was part of a recent campaign to protest the new security, which has seen the criminalisation of acts relating to subversion, foreign collusion and terrorism. The joint statement raised concerns of the law’s potential for abuse in establishing a climate of fear and self-censorship and the threat it poses to rule of law and fundamental freedoms in Hong Kong.
The visa denial is seen as another step to curtailing press freedom and undermining democratic rights.
The IFJ said: “Preventing journalists from working is an attack on democracy and public interest journalism. This denial of a work visa for a highly reputable local publication is a direct obstruction of press freedom and only validates concerns raised about the new security law in Hong Kong.”