Hong Kong: Former lawmaker denied bail for talking to foreign journalists

Claudia Mo, a former pro-democracy lawmaker, has been denied bail after the Hong Kong High Court cited Mo’s interviews and texts with reporters from the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times and the BBC as justification for denying bail. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) condemns the use of encrypted communications to deny bail and calls for Mo’s immediate release.

Claudia Mo at the Legislative Council in Hong Kong. Credit: PETER PARKS/ AFP

Mo was arrested in January due to charges of conspiracy to commit subversion under the national security law that was put in place July 2020. Mo was arrested alongside 46 other people from the opposition movement against Chinese governance in Hong Kong on charges of conspiracy to commit subversion. If found guilty, Mo faces life in prison.

During the court proceedings, the conversation Mo had with Jilian Melchior from the Wall Street Journal was quoted as an explanation for denial of bail where they spoke of 12 Hong Kongers who were captured after attempting to escape Taiwan by boat. In this conversation, Mo told Melchior, “The new security law and the spate of arrests have worked as a scare tactic, probably fairly successfully—at sending a persistent political chill around the city.”

The national security law that was passed in June 2020 cites four areas of infractions: secession, subversion, terrorist activities, and collusion with foreigners to endanger national security. Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam refused to clarify the implications of the law when asked at a press conference on July 7, 2020, claiming that “It is not a question of me standing here to give you a guarantee of what you may or may not do in the days and weeks and years ahead.”

This law ultimately increases government supervision and regulation of the media with strengthened management of foreign news. It gives police the right to search any premise, seize and search devices, and conduct surveillance without a court order.

The IFJ said: “Using texts and interviews as a justification to deny bail is a clear attempt by the Chinese government to silence and oppress free media. The IFJ urges the Chinese government to grant Mo bail and to abolish its national security law immediately.”

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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