Our latest Annual Report includes a Transparency Report based on our latest yearly, independent audit.
Letter from the Editor:
Last year, Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement sought to “blossom everywhere,” with protesters vowing to “be water” and act with fluidity, speed and flexibility. The HKFP team had to mirror the approach, streamlining our operations and deployment to cope with the unprecedented, non-stop demonstrations. Since last June, our staff worked overtime to document the multi-district unrest from the frontlines, in real-time. We joked about developing an immunity to pepper spray, or growing a third lung to process tear gas, but managed to maintain our impartiality despite the risks and unexpected ethical challenges.
We are grateful to those who supported our team throughout the city’s recent turmoil – in particular to our monthly donors, who rose in number by over 500% to 792 in 2019. This support allowed us to invest in safety gear, insurance, freelancers and training. Our traffic, meanwhile, increased threefold last year, whilst our number of Facebook and Twitter followers more than doubled.
As Hongkongers, it is bittersweet to share these statistics having seen and lived through the events of recent months. But regular support from Patrons has provided us with enough security and capacity to expand our team whilst ensuring our independence. HKFP will relaunch in 2020 with new staff and a more accessible, beautiful, faster website. And, as rumours, state propaganda and accusations of “fake news” spread across the city, HKFP is aiming to become Hong Kong’s most publicly accountable and ethical news outlet with a new Code of Ethics, Corrections Policy and Fact-checking Policy.
Away from the protests, HKFP brought on several new op-ed writers over the past year, won a Google grant, improved staff conditions and was the subject of two documentaries. Our staff spoke at events in three different countries, we relaunched our apps, and raised HK$2.6m in donations.
Looking ahead, we are certain that the demonstrations and unrest are far from over. Even if the protests settle and the international spotlight fades, there are several upcoming political flashpoints which could spur people back onto the streets. Our team will be covering September’s general elections, and will be keeping an eye on potential efforts to pass the national anthem law or national security legislation.
As our plans for 2020 involve a big investment and higher costs in the long-term, we very much welcome one-off and monthly support to help secure these upgrades and our future. If you are a supporter already, we wish to extend a warm “thank you” for backing our team and helping us to safeguard press freedom at this critical time. We hope you will enjoy reading about our work and achievements over the past 12 months.
Our Mission and Impact:
We aim to be the most independent and credible English-language news source in Greater China. We seek to amplify the voices of the voiceless, not the powerful. And our platform will act as a monitor should Hong Kong’s core values and freedoms be threatened. The HKFP team is fully committed to reporting the facts, without fear, favour or interference.
- 79% of HKFP readers use English as a first language.
- 37% are aged between 25-34; 21% are aged 35-44.
- 36% are Hong Kong-based, 20% are US-based.
The Best of HKFP 2019:
Year of turmoil: HKFP found itself on the forefront of the most significant unrest in decades, often live-streaming the action in real-time. We invested in safety training and gear, adapted our workflow and deployment, and employed a freelance photographer – May James – to capture over 2,600 shots from the frontlines.
Exclusive Features: In 2019, we examined grassroots community issues such as chronic overcrowding at local hospitals, the privatisation of public markets, a stand-off over a local playground, problems with local minibuses, and drink spiking scams in Wan Chai. We explained why the US may no longer treat Hong Kong as separate to China if freedoms diminish. HKFP looked at the rise of the city’s Progressive Lawyers Group and their concerns over the rule of law, as well as a political art space which is set to close. Our team profiled a small organisation fighting for recognition of ageing womens’ needs, as well as the sexual violence survivors calling for one-stop crisis centres at hospitals. We reported on how a new law on Taiwan officials visiting the US marked a victory for a long-running lobby group, and spoke with a Hong Kong student who sparked a fiery debate about local identity. We also looked at the phenomenon of female bodybuilders, the LGBT-friendly sport of roller derby, the drag scene in Beijing, a unique Hong Kong cramming school and Tai Chi for the elderly. Our team also covered the unprecedented climate strike protests.
Leading daily coverage & scoops: HKFP carried exclusive reporting on the case of two Saudi sisters hiding in Hong Kong and inconsistencies surrounding the Indonesian overseas election in the city. Aside from our leading coverage of the Umbrella Movement jailings, we published translated statements from the convicted activists in full. We covered the draconian national anthem law, sexism at the local press club, and published 23 pieces on the fight for LGBT+ equality. HKFP also live-blogged the annual budget and gave overnight, marathon coverage of the unprecedented 2019 District Council elections.
Tiananmen anniversary: HKFP featured its most extensive coverage yet of the 1989 Tiananmen Massacre anniversary. 30 years on, we interviewed Tiananmen author Louisa Lim, veteran activist Lee Cheuk-yan, survivor Zhou Fengsou, and Tiananmen playwright Candace Chong. We examined the history of the Goddess of Democracy statue which appeared on the square and gave close multimedia coverage to the huge commemorative vigil in Hong Kong. In a first for Hong Kong, we provided a 2.5-hour simultaneous, marathon live broadcast of the vigil with English commentary.
Exclusive interviews: During 2019, we carried exclusive interviews with Bar Association head Philip Dykes following his successful election, political artists Ai Wei Wei, Perry Dino and Kacey Wong, as well as democracy icon Joshua Wong and convicted Umbrella Movement activist Tommy Cheung. We profiled three female activists from unrecognised states: Tibetan-Canadian student Chemi Lhamo spoke to us about a pro-China cyberbullying campaign, as did Uighur activist Rukiye Turdush – also based in Canada. And we spoke with Naila Ayesh about her role in leading the First Palestinian Intifada. Our team spoke to two artists examining what it is like to live under the shadow of China’s Great Firewall, as well as James Griffiths, who wrote a book on Chinese censorship.
We also spoke to Chinese feminist Zheng Churan about her campaign to free husband Wei Zhili, detained for protesting, as well as singer-activist Denise Ho, activist-in-exile Ray Wong, advocacy expert Sharon Hom, and a former police trainee who dropped out to join the protests. In the run-up to the District Council elections, we spoke to four key candidates – all of whom went on to win seats. And on the pro-establishment side, we had exclusive sit-downs with former legislative president Jasper Tsang and pro-Beijing lawmaker Regina Ip.
Exclusive videos & innovation: HKFP invested more in video in 2019, publishing a Humans of Hong Kong documentary series consisting of 18 colourful vignettes in collaboration with the University of Hong Kong. During the protests, we hosted over two dozen 360° videos, including a feature-length all-immersive video of the National Day unrest and another featuring a police crackdown in Tai Po. HKFP also made a splash with frontline Facebook Live videos from the frontlines, with the team giving on-the-ground, first-hand accounts – along with interviews and commentary – from almost every protest since June. We published four “People of Protest” videos, interviewing demonstrators in the early days of the movement and our team also shot key footage of a crackdown in Yuen Long metro station, and a bloody arrest which revealed the use of undercover agents by police.
Explanatory journalism: HKFP published explainers on the legislative turmoil, the vandalism on the protest frontlines, how the movement remained leaderless, a “know your rights” explainer, as well as an explainer on the evolving protesters’ toolkit and the July 1 storming of the legislature. We examined why the local metro system became a target, how the legislature was “broken” long before it was vandalised, the meaning of a court injunction said to protect police, and we took a deep dive into each of the movement’s five demands.
- Writers: This year, we carried over 288 HKFP Opinion pieces, showcasing much-needed commentary missing elsewhere in English. We welcomed Shirley Yam, who left the South China Morning Post amid censorship concerns, to our opinion section. Apple Daily’s Mark Simon, activist-blogger Yan Sham-Shackleton, and HKU politics professor John Burns also joined the platform.
- Book launch: We co-launched a book on post-Umbrella Movement Hong Kong with the author, our columnist, Kong Tsung-gan. 100% of proceeds went to HKFP, raising over HK$67,00 before P&P costs.
- Conferences: HKFP’s founder spoke at the Splice Beta conference in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Senior staff also spoke at Taiwan’s Oslo Freedom Forum in September, as well as at events hosted by PEN, Young China Watchers, the Foreign Correspondents’ Club, Lingnan University, Baptist University and a local book shop. In 2020, staff are also scheduled to share the HKFP story at journalism events in Denmark, Thailand, Cambodia and Norway.
- Int’l TV & Radio: Staff have appeared on Deutsche Welle, ABC, CBC, CTV, Sky News, BBC, Radio New Zealand, TRT World, TalkRadio, LBC, NPR, Euronews and others, recapping our reporting for an international audience.
- Employment standards: After extending staff healthcare and three months of paid maternity/paternity leave, HKFP introduced several mental healthcare options for staff and distributed secure work phones and work laptops in 2019.
- Al-Jazeera documentary about HKFP: A 30-minute documentary about HKFP aired internationally on Al-Jazeera in November. The “Fact and Friction” team followed us for over a fortnight, just as the anti-
extradition law protests were about to explode.
- Events: In 2019, we sponsored Shorties International Film Festival, two music festivals and the Human Rights Arts Prize.
- Reporters Without Borders: Press freedom watchdog RSF said there was a “resistance” taking place in response to the press freedom concerns in the city: “It is being led by a handful of independent online media such as Citizen News, The Initium, Stand News, Hong Kong Free Press and InMedia. They exist thanks to participative funding and their audience is growing.”
- Movie about HKFP art show: An hour-long documentary about Chinese satirist Badiucao and his cancelled HKFP art show debuted across Australian TV in June. We collaborated with a filmmaker and ABC Television to screen it Hong Kong ahead of a Q&A with the artist. The event raised HK$8,860 for HKFP.
- HKFP fundraisers: Our sold-out 2019 fundraising party in June raised a record HK$21,311 for HKFP thanks to The Hive, Wine’n’Things, Young Master and psychedelic rock superstars Shumking Mansion. HKFP also raised HK$80,488 during the July 1 march through donations and merchandise sales.
- Apps relaunched: Revamped Android and Apple iOS news apps were relaunched in summer 2019 as planned.
- Crowdtangle: We deployed the Crowdtangle Facebook suite as a monitoring tool to help better ensure our neutrality in news coverage.
- Journalism prize: Journalist David Missal won a Human Rights Press Award in May for a mini-documentary published by HKFP.
- Google grant: In March, HKFP won a US$78,400 (HK$615,440) Google News Initiative grant to create an open-source funding platform for small newsrooms focussed on nurturing reader membership. The Open Membership Portal for Small Newsrooms platform will be developed by the HKFP team and freelancers in 2020. News startups will be able to deploy the fundraising micro-site easily to bypass, or reduce their reliance upon, expensive third-party crowdfunding sites and flawed fundraising plug-ins.
- Newspack win: HKFP won a position on the Newspack pilot – an advanced open-source publishing platform designed by WordPress. 50 winners were chosen from around 500 applicants. A cutting-edge new website will launch in 2020 through the project, which is supported by Google and other grant-making bodies. It is designed to relieve newsrooms like ours of tech troubles, empowering us to focus on journalism. The new tools will cost HKFP US$1,000/month.
Placement & Impact:
We seek to ensure our news remains accessible and free of charge. Find us on:
In 2019, HKFP went through a legal examination to be recognised as the equivalent of a US charity. Hong Kong law does not allow media outlets to register as tax-exempt charities, thus HKFP is a limited by guarantee company – a non-profit, answerable to readers not shareholders. As of January, 2020, we are now certified by NGO Source.
Whilst this does not mean we are tax-exempt, it can be of some assurance to donors and grant-making bodies that we meet the same standards of a US public charity in terms of our structure, accountability and governance.
Staff & Structure:
The 2020 HKFP team:
Hong Kong Free Press is structured as a not-for-profit company, limited by guarantee, not shares. HKFP does not answer to any business tycoon, mainland Chinese conglomerate or media mogul. We are run by journalists, and are answerable only to ourselves and our readers.
em>We are proud to be Hong Kong’s most transparent news outlet and, as a non-profit company, HKFP is externally audited every year. Be assured that, when you donate to HKFP, every cent is put to careful use and goes directly towards frontline journalism and original reporting. Download a copy of our latest Annual Report.
Income for our latest audited year – 1/1/2018 to 31/12/2018 – was as follows:
|Ads & content sales||HK$136,084||HK$328,759||HK$92,276|
Our 2018-2020 revenue streams:
All donations: includes one-off & monthly Patron contributions by cheque/transfer, cash PayPal & card, as well as merch sales profit & shopping referral links. HKFP also retains 1.97 Bitcoin, as of 2020.
Ads & content sales: includes income from Google/YouTube display ads; Apple News & Facebook ads, directly purchased rate card ads & content sales [from media outlets, institutions and Dow Jones Factiva/Nordot re-syndication].
HKFP Patrons: HKFP has shifted towards a membership model. Small amounts of income from a large pool of Patrons helps support our team, sustain our operations with more security, and guarantees our independence. Our monthly income as of January 2020:
- The number of HKFP Patrons rose by 539% in 2019, and our monthly income from Patrons rose by 358%.
- Patrons are overwhelmingly from Hong Kong, though we also have backers in the US, UK, Australia and China.
- In addition to the above, we receive at least HK$10,000 [US$1,276] per month from donors who contribute via cheque, transfer or by coin donation via CoinDragon.
- Patrons are given priority and/or free entry to HKFP events, merchandise and a hard copy of our Annual Report. We aim to surpass 1,000 patrons in 2020.
Expenditure for our latest audited year – 1/1/2018 to 31/12/2018 – was as follows:
- HKFP is run as efficiently and prudently as possible, in order to maximise the impact of our donors’ generosity. We make savings by partnering with other media outlets, using free software wherever possible and making full use of teamwork and automation to save on labour costs.
- During 2018, we employed 4-5 full-time staff members and several freelancers.
|Full-time staff payroll||HK$1,499,071||HK$1,340,230||HK$1,035,523|
|Mandatory Provident Fund (pensions)||HK$69,234||HK$66,180||HK$50,942|
|Website, newswire text/photo, software||HK$129,543||HK$58,693||HK$33,083|
|Office, sundry, recruitment/training, telecom||HK$110,414||HK$57,565||HK$25,801|
|Meals/drinks for volunteers & staff||HK$14,028||HK$17,106||HK$25,531|
|Legal, professional, registration, audit fees||HK$7,385||HK$45,231||HK$10,845|
|Travel & insurance||HK$78,067||HK$8,169||HK$8,267|
|Stationery/merch, postage, printing||HK$11,827||HK$686||HK$17,124|
|Bank charges & exchange losses||HK$1,705||HK$1,170||HK$2,218|
|Freelancer payments & gear||HK$64,400||HK$34,090||HK$0|
- As a non-profit, with no shareholders or investors, HKFP’s surplus was recycled back into the company in 2019.
- 73% of all spending goes directly towards supporting our hard-working full-time news team.
HKFP Press Freedom Update:
- In 2019, HKFP’s four staff members were pepper-sprayed, sprayed with water cannon tear spray, injured by tear gas canisters, police projectiles and batons whilst reporting on the frontlines.
- The Hong Kong Journalists Association condemned attacks against the press including an instance of an HKFP reporter who was hit in the face with pepper spray whilst live streaming a police clearance operation.
- In October, travellers trying to access the HKFP website using the airport’s public ASUS internet terminals encountered an “access denied” message claiming the site was “harmful to a young public.”
- Also in October, HKFP freelance photojournalist May James was arrested by the police for allegedly obstructing a police officer, failing to produce proof of identity and resisting arrest. She was unconditionally released by the police in November after she declined to extend her bail.
- HKFP remains blocked in mainland China, is reportedly a target of a Beijing-backed ad boycott, and received several threatening emails and letters in 2019.
Hong Kong Press Freedom in 2019:
- Two men who attacked former Ming Pao editor Kevin Lau with a knife were sent back to jail after failing to appeal their sentences.
- Amnesty International said in a report that Hongkongers’ freedoms were in “rapid decline” as a result of the government’s actions in 2018.
- Former chief executive Leung Chun-ying launched a boycott campaign against companies which purchased ads in the pro-democracy Apple Daily.
- Hong Kong’s place in a Reporters Without Borders press freedom ranking dropped to 73 out of 180.
- Chief Executive Carrie Lam urged Hong Kong media to “tell the Greater Bay Area story well.”
- Chinese officials in Hong Kong told foreign journalists to “inject positive energy” into their coverage of proposed changes to Hong Kong’s extradition laws.
- A TVB cameraman was driven away by anti-extradition law protesters over alleged bias in the station’s coverage.
- The Hong Kong Journalists Association filed a complaint with the Independent Police Complaints Council accusing police of causing bodily harm to 26 journalists.
- Hong Kong broadcaster TVB defends its neutrality amid online calls to boycott the channel following accusations of bias.
- The Hong Kong Journalists Association said in its annual report that 2018 was “one of the worst years” since the 1997 Handover for press freedom.
- Hundreds of journalists and their supporters marched to police headquarters and the Chief Executive’s office urging the authorities to respect press freedom.
- The Hong Kong Journalists Association and the Hong Kong Press Photographers Association condemned the police over insults and “malicious jostling” of journalists during a clearance operation of protesters.
- A group of pro-Beijing protesters surrounded a building of public broadcaster RTHK and insulted and kicked reporters.
- A website posted personal information of reporters from Apple Daily. The tabloid obtained an injunction against the doxxing of it reporters.
- A reporter at Apple Daily was punched and kicked by assailants in Sau Mau Ping.
- An Indonesian journalist is blinded in her right eye after being hit with a police projectile.
- The Hong Kong Journalists Association filed a legal challenge against the police over the alleged improper treatment of media staff at ongoing protests.
- News organisations in Hong Kong raised objections after a court was asked to hide the identity of police officers.
- A police association won an application for an injunction barring the public – including media – from checking personal details on the voters’ registry, amid privacy concerns for officers.
- A Hong Kong journalist protested at a police press conference over the alleged mistreatment of reporters by officers.
- Hong Kong’s largest television broadcaster TVB applied for an injunction against people who “unlawfully and willfully” assault its news crew and damage its property. It was later denied.
- A group of journalists conducted a silent protest action at a regular police press conference, following the arrest of a photographer and a student journalist.
- Hong Kong police sent complaint letters to news outlets of reporters who participated in the press conference protest.
- Hong Kong media outlets were exempted from an injunction against the disclosure of police officers’ personal data.
- i-Cable filed a formal complaint against the police over the treatment of 23 reporters.
- Chief Executive Carrie Lam said she was disappointed by the passage of the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, and said the city’s freedom had not been eroded.
- A police officer displays a Stand News journalist’s Hong Kong identity card and press card in front of a live streaming camera.
HKFP’s 2020 Priorities:
- 2020 relaunch & new staff: As part of the Newspack collaboration, we will relaunch the HKFP website and brand in early 2020. In February, the team will expand to five full-time staff and we will make further investments in original reporting.
- Fundraising: By the end of 2020, we will have a prototype ready for our open-source funding platform for small newsrooms, backed by Google’s Asia-Pacific Innovation Challenge.In the meantime, we will launch a 2020 Funding Drive.
- Free Expression Week & art show: We plan to hold our second Free Expression Week series of events in 2020, with film showings, forums and an art event.
- Improved accountability: HKFP plans to launch a Code of Ethics, Corrections Policy and Fact-checking policy to help guide our future coverage and improve accountability. HKFP is looking into becoming accredited with the Trust Project and the Reporters Without Borders’ Journalism Trust Initiative.
Not-for-profit, run by journalists and completely independent, the HKFP team relies on readers to keep us going and to help safeguard press freedom.
Make an instant one-off donation of any amount, or make a monthly commitment and become an HKFP Patron. HK$200 per month – the price of a weekly coffee – helps us achieve sustainability and safeguards our independence.