A forum hosted by a Chinese think-tank last Saturday asked Hong Kong journalists to sign a five-point agreement giving organisers control over their news coverage as a condition of entry. Former chief executive Leung Chun-ying attended the event as a guest speaker, along with CEO of the Hong Kong Stock Exchange Charles Li and Shui On Group Chairman Vincent Lo.

The Yabuli Youth Forum 2018, an offshoot of the Beijing-based China Entrepreneurs Forum, was held in Hong Kong last Friday and Saturday. On Saturday, local journalists were asked to sign a declaration that gave the organisers the power to edit and approve their reporting on the event.

Yabuli Youth Forum media declaration
A copy of the declaration offered to journalists at the scene.

“All reporting (except live video and text) must first be approved by the Yabuli news centre,” the document read. “As for live video and text, if the guests’ speeches include any material not suitable for public dissemination, media outlets must assist the Yabuli news centre to address it accordingly (editing, deletion, statement of retraction).”

The document – shared by Apple Daily – also asked media outlets not to interview or report on the honorary chairperson of the China Entrepreneurs Forum Liu Mingkang, despite Liu being present as a guest speaker.

Liu was the chairman of the China Banking Regulatory Commission from 2003 to 2011, and was a member of the 17th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China elected in 2007.

Yabuli Youth Form China Entrepreneurs Forum
Website of the China Entrepreneurs Forum. Photo: screenshot.

The document further asked media outlets not to report on the unofficial content published on the WeChat and Weibo accounts of its event staff.

Chairperson of the Hong Kong Journalists’ Association Chris Yeung said that pre-approving coverage would affect the independence of news media and damage its credibility. He said he hoped that mainland and overseas organisations would follow local journalism conventions when working in Hong Kong.

Lawmaker Gary Chan Hak-kan said that the incident reflected how mainland organisations were not familiar with Hong Kong’s situation and did not understand press freedom and editorial independence.

“If they don’t want Hong Kong journalists to report on it, don’t issue a media invitation,” Chan said. “Just send a press release.”

Holmes Chan is a reporter at Hong Kong Free Press. He covers local news with a focus on law, politics, and social movements. He studied law and literature at the University of Hong Kong.