Hong Kong: HKJA considers disbanding amidst growing safety concerns

Hong Kong’s largest journalist union, the Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA), has announced to members that it will hold a special meeting to discuss the “future direction” of the group. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is deeply concerned by this announcement, given the extraordinary role the HKJA has played in delivering a reliable and strong voice for journalists in the region.

Ronson Chan, chair of the Hong Kong Journalist Association, outside the office of his former employer Stand News on January 7, 2022, which was shut down after police raided their offices. Credit: Peter Parks / AFP

On April 13, the HKJA, which has been running for 54 years, announced that it would be holding an Extraordinary General Meeting to discuss amending the group’s constitution and discussing options for its future amidst Hong Kong’s “rapidly changing social and political environment”.

The agenda for the meeting, to be held on April 23, will reportedly include discussions regarding the “future direction” of the HKJA and will involve members reconsidering the threshold for dissolution.

Currently, the HKJA Constitution states that “the union shall not be dissolved, except with the consent of 5/6ths of the voting membership of the union obtained by means of a secret ballot”.

Chen Langsheng, HKJA Chairperson, claimed that while there was no immediate intention to dissolve the HKJA, members have become increasingly worried about the safety of the association.

"I won't vote to dissolve [HKJA] with a bang, [but] everyone is concerned about the safety of the HKJA. The Association of Journalists is on the list,” Langsheng said.

This decision by the HKJA comes as several media outlets in Hong Kong have shuttered, including Apple Daily and Stand News, and journalists continue to be arrested and persecuted for their reporting.

If HKJA decides to disband, it will not be the first civil society organisation in Hong Kong to do so. In 2021, Hong Kong’s largest pro-democracy coalition, the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions (HKCTU), announced it would dissolve, citing “threats to members’ safety.”

The IFJ said: “The decision by the HKJA to consider disbanding is deeply concerning and sets a worrying precedent for the future of free press and democracy in Hong Kong. The association has been a strong voice for journalists in the special administrative region and its closure will only serve to further damage the state of independent media in Hong Kong. The IFJ urges the Hong Kong government to cease its attacks on media, and allow journalists, media organisations, press freedom associations and unions to function freely, without fear of persecution.”

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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