Beijing officials told foreign journalists on Tuesday to “inject positive energy” into their coverage of proposed changes to Hong Kong’s extradition laws, according to China’s foreign ministry.

The briefing, attended by Reuters, CNN, CNBC, Kyodo News and the Financial Times, was organised by the Office of the Commissioner of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Hong Kong.

China foreign ministry meeting journalists
Photo: The Office of the Commissioner of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Deputy Commissioner of the office Song Ru’an said in a statement on Wednesday that reporters were urged to “fair and objective” in their coverage in order to better the world’s understanding of Hong Kong. He added that the legal changes were “legal, necessary and urgent.”

The statement also said the central government “fully supports” the city’s plan to amend the Fugitive Offenders Ordinance and the Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Ordinance.

Hong Kong’s government proposed legal amendments in February to allow the city to handle case-by-case extradition requests from jurisdictions with no prior agreements, most notably China and Taiwan. The plan would enable the chief executive and local courts to handle extradition requests without legislative oversight, though lawyersjournalistsforeign politicians and businesses have raised concerns over the risk of residents being extradited to the mainland. The proposed bill could reach a final vote before the current legislative period ends in July.

China foreign ministry meeting journalists
Photo: The Office of the Commissioner of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The Hong Kong Journalist Association (HKJA) on Friday expressed “regret” over the foreign ministry’s briefing.

The watchdog said that the move gave the impression the ministry was putting pressure on the media: “The Fugitive Offenders Ordinance is a matter for Hong Kong… and the responsibility for explaining the bill falls on government officials. The ministry holding a briefing for foreign media will cause confusion, and the HKJA thinks the move is inappropriate,” the statement read.

Outgoing president of the Foreign Correspondents’ Club (FCC) Hong Kong, Florence de Changy, told HKFP that she rejected attempts by governments to influence foreign reporting: “I would only comment [saying] that it is not in the tradition of the western media to be told what to write or what tone to adopt by any government… We [the FCC] have invited the Chinese authorities to present their views at the FCC and I hope they will do in due time.”

Florence de Changy
Florence de Changy. File Photo:

According to RTHK, veteran democrat Emily Lau called the meeting “preposterous.”

“It is very sad. I want to call on all journalists … not to listen to the Chinese government when they give such instructions. In fact, I think they should tell them to shut up and let them do their job,” she said.

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jennifer creery

Jennifer Creery

Jennifer Creery is a Hong Kong-born British journalist, interested in minority rights and urban planning. She holds a BA in English at King's College London and has studied Mandarin at National Taiwan University.