The New York Times is to move a third of its Hong Kong staff to the South Korean capital, citing the controversial new security law and trouble securing work visas.

“China’s sweeping new national security law in Hong Kong has created a lot of uncertainty about what the new rules will mean to our operation and our journalism,” management of The Times told staff in a memo on Tuesday. “We feel it is prudent to make contingency plans and begin to diversify our editing staff around the region…Any disruption to the operation has the potential to undermine our journalism, which is now more important than ever.”

New York Times
The New York Times headquarters in New York. File photo: HKFP/Tom Grundy.

The US paper also said that some staff had faced problems in securing work permits in Hong Kong, including veteran China journalist Chris Buckley.

The move to Seoul will take place over the coming year, though some correspondents will remain in Hong Kong, as will printing production, advertising and marketing staff.

No guarantees

Last week, Chief Executive Carrie Lam she will give only give guarantees about press freedom to journalists if they also give “a 100% guarantee that they will not commit any offences under this piece of national legislation.”

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According to The Times citing sources, Bloomberg and CNN will maintain their large teams in the city.

In June 2020, Beijing inserted national security legislation directly into Hong Kong’s mini-constitution – bypassing the local legislature – following a year of pro-democracy protests and unrest. It criminalised subversion, secession, collusion with foreign forces and terrorist acts, which were broadly defined to include disruption to transport and other infrastructure. The move gave police sweeping new powers, alarming democrats, civil society groups and trade partners, as such laws have been used broadly to silence and punish dissidents in China. However, the authorities say it has restored stability and peace to the city.

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Tom founded Hong Kong Free Press in 2015 and is the editor-in-chief. In addition to editing, he is responsible for managing the newsroom and company - including fundraising, recruitment and overseeing HKFP's web presence and ethical guidelines.

He has a BA in Communications and New Media from Leeds University and an MA in Journalism from the University of Hong Kong. He previously led an NGO advocating for domestic worker rights, and has contributed to the BBC, Deutsche Welle, Al-Jazeera and others.