The city’s largest journalist group has urged the Hong Kong Monetary Authority to improve media arrangements at its events, expressing “deep regret” that reporters were not allowed to interview attendees at an international finance summit organised by the authority.

HKJA Hong Kong Journalists Association logo
Hong Kong Journalists Association. Photo: Selina Cheng/HKFP.

The statement came after local media reported that journalists at the Global Financial Leaders’ Investment Summit, held last Tuesday, complained they were not allowed on the conference floor. They were reportedly kept in a separate function room where a livestream of the speeches was played, meaning they were unable to speak to the C-suite banking executives attending the summit.

In a statement issued on Tuesday, the Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA) called on the HKMA – the city’s de facto central bank – to allow face-to-face interviews with conference attendees, set up media exchange sessions, and provide reporters with attendees’ contact details.

“The Hong Kong Journalists Association deeply regrets the media arrangements for the International Financial Leaders Investment Summit hosted by the authority on November 7, 2023,” the Chinese statement read.

Chief Executive John Lee delivers a keynote speech at the Global Financial Leaders’ Investment Summit on November 7, 2023. Photo: Hong Kong Monetary Authority.
Chief Executive John Lee delivers a keynote speech at the Global Financial Leaders’ Investment Summit on November 7, 2023. Photo: Hong Kong Monetary Authority.

In a reply to HKFP, a spokesperson for the HKMA said only photographers could stay in the conference hall due to space constraints. The summit welcomed more than 350 guests last week – a one-third increase from last year’s summit.

The summit was held at the Four Seasons Grand Ballroom, which, in banquet configuration, can accommodate 456 people, according to the hotel’s website.

The spokesperson also said that designated interview areas outside the main venue were “made available for those who had successfully arranged interviews with the Summit guests,” and that more than 30 media interviews were facilitated on-site.

“The HKMA endeavours to maintain close relationship with the media and accommodate press requests as far as possible,” the statement read.

Press freedom

In its statement, the association said the bankers’ remarks “had a significant impact on Hong Kong’s financial markets and economic development,” and that it was imperative that journalists were able to communicate directly with the attendees.

Press freedom media outlets news press freedom
Microphones from media outlets at a press conference. File photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.

“The authority arranged for reporters to watch a live broadcast on a different floor and did not allow them to contact attendees, which seriously hindered reporters from performing their duties and providing the public with accurate and comprehensive reporting.”

The arrangements, in effect, had undermined press freedom as well as the public’s right to be informed, the association said. “The HKJA urges the authority to review the arrangements and take measures to protect the freedom of the press at future summits,” HKJA added.

“The HKJA believes this has dealt a serious blow to press freedom,” the statement read. “If the authority only wishes for the media to write news reports based on the official live broadcast, there is no need to invite reporters to attend in person.”

Chief Executive John Lee meets the press on October 31, 2023. Photo: Hans Tse/HKFP.
Chief Executive John Lee meets the press on October 31, 2023. Photo: Hans Tse/HKFP.

The statement was issued shortly after Chief Executive John Lee hailed the event as a success ahead of his weekly press conference on Tuesday morning, saying that some 300 representatives from 160 financial institutions were in attendance last week. The turnout was an indication that they attached great importance to Hong Kong as an international finance hub, Lee said.

Ahead of the summit last week, the Hong Kong government slammed a a Wall Street Journal editorial as “biased,” after the newspaper described top US financial executives attending the event as “kissing John Lee’s ring”.

The journal’s editorial named some of the attendees including Morgan Stanley Chairman and CEO James Gorman, chairman and CEO of Goldman Sachs David Solomon, president and COO of Blackstone Jonathan Gray, Citigroup CEO Jane Fraser, and Franklin Resources President and CEO Jennifer Johnson.

Hong Kong has plummeted in international press freedom indices since the onset of the security law. Watchdogs cite the arrest of journalists, raids on newsrooms and the closure of around 10 media outlets including Apple Daily, Stand News and Citizen News. Over 1,000 journalists have lost their jobs, whilst many emigrated. Meanwhile, the city’s government-funded broadcaster RTHK has adopted new editorial guidelines, purged its archives and axed news and satirical shows.

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James Lee is a reporter at Hong Kong Free Press with an interest in culture and social issues. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in English and a minor in Journalism from the Chinese University of Hong Kong, where he witnessed the institution’s transformation over the course of the 2019 extradition bill protests and after the passing of the Beijing-imposed security law.

Since joining HKFP in 2023, he has covered local politics, the city’s housing crisis, as well as landmark court cases including the 47 democrats national security trial. He was previously a reporter at The Standard where he interviewed pro-establishment heavyweights and extensively covered the Covid-19 pandemic and Hong Kong’s political overhauls under the national security law.