Pro-Beijing mouthpiece Wen Wei Po has called for the Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA) to be regulated, labelling it an “anti-government political organisation” which defends “fake news.”

In an article published on Friday the state-controlled newspaper said: “HKJA shields violence and enable rumours, [HKJA’s] loss of morals should be regulated”.

Photo: Wen Wei Po.

The attack comes after the association itself and rights concern groups warned that the city’s press freedoms are at an all-time low.

The state-run paper slammed the Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA) for five “evil deeds,” including allegedly “slandering” the government, supporting “fake reporters,” and opposing “fake news” regulations floated by the government.

“The [HKJA] is supposed to protect the interests and rights of journalists,” the article read. However it is suspected of collaborating with fake reporters… wantonly smearing the Hong Kong government, the police and the national security law, and inciting the public to oppose the local and central governments, ruining the industry’s reputation.”

Pro-Beijing lawmaker Eunice Yung was quoting as saying the association had continuously spread “anti-government” political views. The New People Party’s vice-chair added that she believed the government should proactively regulate civil society groups in the future under the Trade Unions Ordinance and the Societies Ordinance.

‘Discrediting NSL’

The paper also took aim at the association’s leadership, listing alleged “bad actions” of HKJA chair Ronson Chan, executive members Deutsche Welle correspondent Phoebe Kong and Chloe Cheng, a student reporter at the Hong Kong Baptist University.

Phoebe Kong DW
Photo: Screenshot via Youtube.

It accused Kong of “discrediting” the national security law in her reports for the German outlet. One of her video reports cited critics as stating that the national security law marked the “end” of One Country, Two Systems and had a “chilling effect” on activists, the press and ordinary citizens.

‘False statement’

The HKJA chairperson refuted the article’s claims on Friday, saying the association had only two goals: protecting journalists’ rights and safeguarding press freedom.

“Wen Wei Po has made a false statement… we are trying to safeguard the freedom of press, which is why we have to protect the rights of journalists,” Chan told HKFP.

He added that the association has never encouraged its members to engage in any political behaviour: “There is no political statement, no political movement, we never encouraged our members to do anything about politics.”

Press freedom journalist police
Photo: Studio Incendo.

The article comes after multiple local and international rights groups have sounded the alarm over diminishing press freedoms in Hong Kong under Beijing-imposed national security laws.

Since the law’s enforcement began last June, the city’s only pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily has closed after two rounds of police raids and arrests, journalists have been detained for allegedly colluding with foreign forces, and programmes on public broadcaster RTHK have been censored.

Last week, veteran journalist and columnist for HKFP Steve Vines fled to the UK, citing a “white terror” sweeping through the city.

Clarification 18/8: This report has been updated to reflect that Kong’s was citing critics in her reporting about the security law.

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Rhoda Kwan is HKFP's Assistant Editor. She has previously written for TimeOut Hong Kong and worked at Meanjin, a literary journal. She holds a double bachelor’s degree in Law and Literature from the University of Hong Kong.