A Hong Kong Free Press opinion article has won honourable mention at the annual Society of Publishers in Asia (SOPA) awards for excellence in opinion writing.

Steve Vines. Photo: Kelly Ho/HKFP.

HKFP regular contributor and veteran journalist Stephen Vines was pronounced winner on Thursday for a series of three opinion articles he penned for our outlet last year. The author of Defying the Dragon: Hong Kong and the World’s Largest Dictatorship tracked the fallout Hong Kong faced in the wake of the the 2019 anti-extradition bill protests, as the government tightened its grip on the city’s political system. His fortnightly column contextualised the first waves of emigration, and looked at the city’s relationship with Beijing from a wider historical perspective.

“Vines rises to the challenge of writing about such a momentous moment in Hong Kong with historic sweep, courage and a sense he knows what makes his community tick,” SOPA’s panel of judges commented.

Photo: SOPA screenshot via YouTube.

Acknowledging the award, Vines said: “I am very honoured to receive this recognition from SOPA, especially at a time when conditions for the Hong Kong media are deteriorating. It is also my honour to be writing this for HKFP, which has the courage to persevere despite formidable obstacles.”

Established in 1999, the SOPA awards recognise editorial excellence in both new media and traditional journalism in the Asia-Pacific region. Last year, HKFP won an honourable mention for explainers on the protest movement.

RTHK, Apple Daily among winners

Separately, the documentary 7.21 Who owns the truth by the embattled public broadcaster RTHK won the grand award for public service journalism. The documentary revisited the July 2019 Yuen Long mob attacks — a turning point in the 2019 protests — and investigated suspected perpetrators involved in the event one year after it occurred. The documentary became the subject of a court case when its producer Bao Choy was convicted of making false statements when obtaining public vehicle records.

The public broadcaster’s management sought to withdraw from the SOPA awards in March, saying it had decided not to nominate any of its programmes to press awards while it reviewed the mechanism of nomination of programmes. Its request was, however, rejected by the Awards’ office as the entries had by then undergone adjudication.

Hong Kong documentary producer Bao Choy at the West Kowloon Law Courts Building on April 22, 2021, as she is set to receive a verdict after she was accused of making false statements while obtaining public records. File Photo: Candice Chau/HKFP.

The now-defunct Apple Daily’s investigation on the role of the Hong Kong Government Flying Service as 12 Hongkongers fled on a speed boat to Taiwan won the Scoop Award. The pro-democracy newspaper ended operations after 26 years in a dramatic shutdown on Wednesday, after the government froze company funds and charged its top executives with violating the national security law.

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Hong Kong Free Press is a new, non-profit, English-language news source seeking to unite critical voices on local and national affairs. Free of charge and completely independent, HKFP arrives amid rising concerns over declining press freedom in Hong Kong and during an important time in the city’s constitutional development.