Photographer Steven Knipp has withdrawn a photo donated to Hong Kong’s Foreign Correspondents’ Club (FCC), saying the club has failed to stand up for press freedom.

In an email seen by HKFP last week, the former club member told the club that royalties from his image of a 1989 protest against the Tiananmen crackdown had generated up to HK$8,000 for the press club.

A Tiananmen crackdown protest files past the Hong Kong Football Club in 1989. Photo: Courtesy of Steven Knipp.

The club recently came under fire for cancelling the Human Rights Press Awards, citing legal risks, after the defunct news outlet Stand News won a number of prizes. Editors from the digital news outlet were arrested under the national security law last December.

The photograph, which was hung in the Central club’s bar, showed demonstrators filing past the Hong Kong Football Club in Happy Valley as members are seen enjoying the pool.

The Foreign Correspondents’ Club, Hong Kong. Photo: Kelly Ho/HKFP.

Knipp told HKFP that the Club had agreed to give his picture back: “Recent events convinced me that the FCC is no longer the respected institution it once was. And FCC statements make it clear the Club no longer intends to actively defend press freedom in Hong Kong.”

Previously, club president Keith Richburg defended the move to cancel the awards, saying it was a decision made by the whole board. One board member quit, as eight members of the Press Freedom Committee, which oversaw the running of the awards, stepped down.

“I think there’s still things we can do here, but again we have to do it within the law… we have to know when we can navigate the red lines if we can,” Richburg said.

Richburg declined to give further comment on Knipp’s photo.

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