Last week, Hong Kong Free Press marked its fifth anniversary, a day before Beijing imposed a wide-reaching national security law. As we expect extra costs from heightened bureaucratic and legal scrutiny, HKFP has launched a 10% for Press Freedom appeal in lieu of our annual fundraiser. The campaign encourages recipients of the HK$10k government handout to contribute HK$1k to HKFP to help us future-proof our operations.

We are enormously grateful to our monthly Patrons who have continued to support us well into 2020, and are appreciative of those who have already thought to contribute in recent weeks with one-off support or merch store purchases. A big “thank you” to our readers for helping sustain our team through the protests, pandemic and new legal uncertainty.

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How is HKFP reacting to the security law?

The security law includes several articles which are of concern to local media, with Article 9 promising “guidance, supervision and regulation” of the media. Though the situation is unclear and the law has yet to be tested in courts, HKFP is nevertheless seeking legal and business advice. We are also opting to switch banks from HSBC, looking into setting up back-up entities abroad, and are preparing for heightened bureaucratic and legal scrutiny. All HKFP staff use only work-provided, remotely-wipeable encrypted devices and we offer sources several channels for secure communication.

Will HKFP’s reporting be affected?

It is difficult to predict how the courts may interpret the law – there are meant to be built-in protections for press freedom, though officials are giving mixed messages over how it affects the press. HKFP is nevertheless strengthening our efforts to protect sources and pledge to continue reporting as normal in accordance with our own governing Code of Ethics.

In the future, should the authorities force us to censor certain wording or stories, we will resist to the full extent of the law. All staff are committed to refusing data requests from the authorities, and we have ignored all previous such requests from the police.

Should our survival as a newspaper come into question owing to political pressure, or if the circumstances begin to resemble mainland China where it is impossible to report freely, HKFP will continue running its operations indefinitely from abroad.

Is it still safe to donate to HKFP?

As always, donations to HKFP are carried out securely via robust, industry-standard encryption and transaction records are stored with multiple-factor security on encrypted devices. The law obliges us to keep records of donors which are overseen by our accountant and yearly auditors. As a strictly impartial news outlet registered with the government, we expect to continue accepting contributions from our readers at home and abroad. Despite this, we are looking into alternative payment platforms in case Stripe or PayPal or our bank are compelled to close our accounts. For those who prefer complete anonymity, HKFP accepts Bitcoin and – at our fundraising events – cash. We also accept donations of gear or sponsorship of running costs.

Can contributors ask for content to be removed? Can writers use a pseudonym?

Since adopting our Code of Ethics in 2020, we do not allow new writers to use pseudonyms except in “very exceptional circumstances.” This is in the interests of accountability, transparency and credibility. For similar reasons, HKFP will resist requests to remove content from its archive – a historical record – except in extreme circumstances such as safety concerns. The security law remains untested and is not retrospective, so we do not expect to update our ethics code for the time being.

2020 10% donation drive: The HKFP team has been on the frontlines of the Hong Kong story since 2015, publishing almost 17,000 news and opinion pieces. As the city’s first crowd-funded news outlet, and the only non-profit English newspaper in town, we continue to rely on reader support to secure our newsroom. Learn more about our achievements in our latest Annual Report. Our Transparency Report shows how carefully we spend every cent.

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Editor-in-chief Tom Grundy, Guest Editor Tim Hamlett, Freelance Photographer May James, Managing Editor Jennifer Creery, Reporter Kelly Ho and Reporter Rachel Wong.

2020 investments: This year, we relaunched HKFP with a new Code of Ethics, a new website, a new, public corrections and fact-checking policy, and was accredited with US charity equivalency. HKFP was also found to have met all nine of the NewsGuard initiative’s credibility and transparency criteria, scoring 100 per cent, as we made big investments in original reporting.

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Why can you trust HKFP?

 Immune to censorship: HKFP is answerable only to readers – we have no investors, no shareholders, no tycoons, no mainland owners or umbrella company behind us. Our independence means we are fully resistant to censorship and self-censorship.

 Non-profit model: We are a non-profit, limited by guarantee company. This means all profits are recycled back into the company, and we are audited every year. We are run by journalists and immune to commercial and political pressure.

 Transparent & efficient: We are the city’s most transparent news outlet – publishing an annual Transparency Report. 84 per cent of income comes from donations, whilst 81 per cent of spending goes simply towards paying journalists. Teamwork, automation, partnerships and the use of free digital tools keep our costs down.

 Accurate & accountable: We ensure everything we publish includes a balance of viewpoints in order to avoid any bias. All facts, quotes and figures are properly attributed to the source, often with links to the original material. Our own opinions are strictly kept out of our copy, whilst we act quickly and transparently to correct errors. HKFP avoids sensationalism and clickbait, and clearly marks paid-for content as “sponsored.” Accuracy and fairness are our top priorities under our new Code of Ethics. We have met all nine of the NewsGuard initiative’s credibility and transparency criteria, scoring 100 per cent.

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Click here to watch the full documentary.

Make an instant one-off donation of any amount, or make a monthly commitment and become an HKFP Patron. HK$200 per month – the price of a weekly coffee – helps us achieve sustainability and safeguards our independence.

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Tom Grundy

Tom is the editor-in-chief and founder of Hong Kong Free Press. He has a BA in Communications and New Media from Leeds University and an MA in Journalism from the University of Hong Kong. He has contributed to the BBC, Euronews, Al-Jazeera and others.