Political threats continue against Hong Kong media

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) joins our affiliate, Hong Kong Journalists Association, in expressing outrage at the continued harassment of Sing Pao Daily and its managers by unidentified thugs. We demand that the Security Bureau of Hong Kong intervene in the case.

On February 21, Sing Pao released an urgent statement claiming that unidentified people began hanging around its offices in mid-February. The unknown people followed and took pictures of several senior managers, then started loitering near their homes. Posters featuring images of the managers, accompanied by malicious messages, were displayed on the streets. The managers received countless harassing phone calls, emails and letters.

Although Sing Pao lodged a complaint with police, the harassment escalated. On February 24, Sing Pao said its website had suffered a series of DDOS cyber attacks, which forced it to shut down. Some staff members received anonymous phone calls and unsigned emails sent via sina.com. That night, several unidentified people protested in front of the office. A Sing Pao manager told IFJ that when photographers took pictures of the demonstrators, they used placards to hide their faces. On February 26, a manager found posters showing their own image front of their home. The apartment door was daubed with red paint.

The Sing Pao statement on February 21 claimed the harassment was related to the election for Chief Executive of Hong Kong scheduled for March 26. Since August 2016, Sing Pao has published a series of commentaries criticising three officials involved in the administration of Hong Kong. The three are Zhang Dejiang, a member of the Politburo Standing Committee of China who is the top Mainland official responsible for Hong Kong and Macau affairs; Zhang Xiaoming, Director of the Chinese Liaison Office, which represents China’s Central Government in Hong Kong; and Leung Chun-Ying, Hong Kong Chief Executive. The articles described them as a “gang” and a “scourge” on Hong Kong.

The threats have aroused concern among media workers. As well, several pan-democrat parties have condemned the intimidation.

The IFJ said: “This is the third recent case of a publisher being targeted after criticising senior leaders. In 2016, five people associated with Causeway Bay Bookstore went missing. Another publisher was warned against publishing a book by Hong Kong lawyer Song Pou in August 2016. The IFJ is concerned about whether the Hong Kong Government is exercising its duty to uphold the Basic Law, which enshrines the right of the people of Hong Kong to enjoy safety and press freedom.”

We urge Mr Lai Tung-Kwok, Secretary of the Hong Kong Security Bureau, and Steven Lo Wai-Chung, Commissioner of Police, to step up their investigation and report to the public in a timely fashion. We also urge the management board of Sing Pao to ensure the safety of staff and provide a refuge for the managers who are experiencing harassment.

For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +61 2 9333 0946 

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

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