Hong Kong’s deputy to the National People’s Congress in Beijing has claimed a local journalism watchdog supports “violence, terrorist attacks and inciting sedition” after it expressed concern about the newly-enacted national security law in its annual press freedom report.

Stanley Ng Chau-pei, also the president of the pro-Beijing Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions, called on authorities empowered under the new legislation to hold the Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA) accountable.

Stanley Ng. File Photo: inmediahk.net.

“For the past year, HKJA has supported violence, terrorist attacks and incited sedition. It has not stopped and has sanctimoniously aired concerns about freedoms in order to subvert the state,” a Facebook post on Tuesday said, despite the watchdog never making such claims. “Their conduct has been extremely shameful and hypocritical! The national security bureau and justice department must bring them to justice!”

‘Freedom in danger’

His comments came shortly after the HKJA unveiled its annual press freedom report – titled “Freedom in Danger.” The report called on local authorities to ensure that journalists would not fall afoul of the sweeping new law whilst carrying out regular practices.

HKJA annual press freedom report: “Freedom in Danger by HKFP on Scribd

“The law itself has overriding power so that means in the name of national security… virtually all protections to free speech and free press are meaningless,” Association Chair Chris Yeung told reporters at a press conference, adding he did not know how to answer reporters’ queries about which stories they could report on.

“I think the present situation now is that you’re OK until you’re not OK. When they think you’re not OK, then you’ll be in trouble.”

Photo: Studio Incendo.

In his introduction to the report, Yeung wrote that police force “will intensify its use of force and tougher tactics to handle protesters. Media, as the fourth power, and journalists, as the eyes and ears of the people, have the duty of monitoring the violation of laws and regulations by those with public power. They will be confronted with more suppression from the central government and Hong Kong government and the pro-establishment camp.”

The report also warned of a “chilling effect” resulting in self-censorship which would further undermine press freedom. It also reiterated calls for the police to “stop obstructing” the work of reporters on the ground, as well as for an independent investigation into the behaviour of the force. It also urged for the enactment of a freedom of information and archives law, and for the government to “stop putting pressure” on public broadcaster RTHK.

In a survey that examined the “violence against journalists when covering public order events,” over 83 per cent of surveyed reported answered that they had strobe lights shone at them by officers, or were “verbally insulted” or “pushed forcefully.”

Photo: HKJA.

Responding to a question from HKFP on Tuesday, Chief Executive Carrie Lam said she could only guarantee press freedom in the city so long as journalists acted in accordance with the new law: “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,” she said.

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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.