Hong Kong’s press association has expressed “regret and disappointment” at a decision by the city’s Consumer Council to cancel an annual consumer reporting awards contest this year, a move it says was made unilaterally without consulting all parties involved.

“The Hong Kong Journalist Association (HKJA) was disappointed that the Consumer Council had not negotiated with the co-organising organisations, including the [HKJA] and the Press Photographers Association, and unilaterally decided to stop the competition,” a statement read on Tuesday.

Consumer Council Reporting Awards 2020. Photo: Consumer Council HK.

The Consumer Council Reporting Awards, which have been co-organised by the Consumer Council, HKJA, and the Hong Kong Press Photographers Association since 2001, were launched to foster public awareness of consumer rights and celebrate outstanding journalism on the issue.

The council’s decision to cancel this year’s awards was first reported by Beijing-backed paper Ta Kung Pao earlier on Tuesday. In its report, the paper accused the HKJA of being “anti-China” and disrupting Hong Kong. “Its evil deeds are obvious, all of society is angry,” a headline claimed.

The council said it decided to suspend the awards in order to conduct a review of its public events. “The Consumer Council has decided to fully review the format of the relevant activities and redraw its long-term plan, so events can be held in a more creative way,” it said in a statement.

Photo: Ta Kung Pao.

The HKJA said it hoped to resume the awards in the future: “The HKJA hopes that this is not the end of the Consumer News Awards. We hoped that the Consumer Council can resume the event in a manner acceptable to it after the review.”

The group added that the awards were important for students and early career journalists to consolidate interest in the field, but that it understood the city’s political climate will cause “countless valuable things to disappear one by one.”

Press freedom

The row comes amid increasing scrutiny of the HKJA from city officials. Security chief Chris Tang accused the group of being unprofessional and biased in an exclusive interview with Ta Kung Pao in September.

In response, the HKJA has accused the security chief of being “factually incorrect.”

File photo: Tom Grundy/HKFP.

The HKJA has raised the alarm about diminishing press freedoms in the city, after a national security crackdown on the city’s sole opposition newspaper, Apple Daily. The paper was forced to shutter in June after two police raids. Its leadership was arrested and charged with “conspiracy to collude with foreign forces” under the security law.

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Rhoda Kwan

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.