Hong Kong: National security chief accuses journalist association of bias

Hong Kong’s national security chief recently accused the Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA), an affiliate of the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), of having political preferences and receiving foreign funding. The IFJ expresses grave concern over the official’s remarks and urges the Hong Kong authorities to respect HKJA members’ freedom of association.

Chairperson of the HKJA, Ronson Chan, and chief editor, Chris Yeung, pose during a press conference for the release of the organisation’s annual report “Freedom in Tatters” in Hong Kong on July 15, 2021. Credit: Anthony Wallace / AFP

Speaking with reporters on September 15, Secretary for Security Chris Tang Ping-keung accused the HKJA of having biased political views and thus favouring pro-democracy news organisations such as Apple Daily and Stand News. He also claimed that the HKJA may have received funds provided by foreign political groups, without providing evidence.

Tang urged the HKJA to disclose its membership list and financial status in order to “prove its innocence” and “assuage public concerns.”

In response, HKJA Chairman Ronson Chan saidthe HKJA does not receive funding from overseas groups and has submitted its financial statements annually to the Labour Department, which oversees trade unions, according to Hong Kong’s law.

The group also said it cannot disclose the personal data of its members without their consent. “Any suggestion to make our membership and their employers public in order to ‘assuage doubts’ would appear to incite a breach of the Ordinance,” the HKJA said in a statement, referring to the Personal Data (Privacy) Ordinance.

In addition, during an interview with local newspaper Ta Kung Pao on September 14, Tang stated that the HKJA is “relying on a large number of student members.” He said the group’s executive committee has been controlled by members of specific media outlets over the years. The situation “makes people question the representativeness of the HKJA” as a journalist trade union, Tang said.

The HKJA said there is no truth to Tang’s comments; as of September 15, the HKJA has 486 members, 56 of whom are students majoring in journalism. This number translates to approximately 11 per cent. A list of HKJA executive committee members is also available on the HKJA website, it added.

The HKJA said: “As a trade union that has been established for over 50 years, the HKJA has adhered to the principle of openness and fairness. The HKJA has defended freedom of the press, which is enshrined in Article 27 of the Basic Law.”

The IFJ said: “The comments made by the Hong Kong national security chief without any proof are deeply concerning and may increase pressure on this vital association that serves hundreds of journalist members in the city. The IFJ calls on the Hong Kong government to respect the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) enshrined by Articles 27 and 39 of the Basic Law guaranteeing freedom of association, including the freedom to join trade unions.”

Established in 1926, the IFJ is the world’s largest organisation of journalists, including 187 trade unions and associations as members in more than 140 countries and regions. The IFJ is an apolitical and non-governmental group dedicated to defending journalists’ rights and promoting freedom of the press.

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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