Hong Kong: Government accuses Wall Street Journal of incitement

The Hong Kong government has accused The Wall Street Journal of “incitement,” claiming it may have broken the city’s electoral law over an editorial published on November 29. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) urges the Hong Kong authorities to cease harassment of media and to respect freedom of the press.

Screenshot from the Wall Street Journal

On December 1, Hong Kong's Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs, Erick Tsang, sent a letter to The Wall Street Journal, saying the editorial published by the United States-based news outlet contained “baseless assumptions” that were "not only factually incorrect but also scaremongering." 

Tsang said he was “shocked” that in the editorial, “Hong Kong Says Vote—or Else,” the newspaper's Editorial Board said “boycotts and blank ballots are one of the last ways for Hong Kongers to express their political views” amid Beijing’s increasing erosion of Hong Kong’s autonomy and civic space.  

The official further said his agency “reserve[s] the right to take necessary action” to address what he described as “inciting another person not to vote, or to cast invalid vote, by activity in public during election period.” 

In the editorial, the authors called the Legislative Council elections, which have been pushed back for one year to December 19, a “sham”. It also suggested the vote was postponed because “during the November 2019 district council elections, Hong Kongers humiliated China by voting in record numbers to elect pro-democracy candidates." 

Tsang instead argued that the elections were delayed because of “the public health risk posed by COVID-19 pandemic.” 

China’s top legislature passed a resolution in March 2021 to overhaul the city’s electoral system. Critics have said that Beijing’s decision, which was later adopted into Hong Kong’s law, would see democratic representation in the legislature reduced and that the move was made to ensure “patriots” would govern Hong Kong. Under the law, a pro-Beijing vetting panel was established to select candidates for Hong Kong’s chief executives and lawmakers. 

The IFJ said, “The IFJ expresses deep concern over the Hong Kong official’s letter to The Wall Street Journal, which was intended to pressure international independent media and silence critical voices on Hong Kong’s declining press freedom and democracy. The IFJ calls on the Hong Kong authorities to respect freedom of the press as guaranteed under the city’s Basic Law.” 

For further information contact IFJ Asia - Pacific on ifj@ifj-asia.org

The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 140 countries

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