Download a copy of the latest Hong Kong Free Press Annual Report – it includes a Transparency Report based on our latest yearly audit.
Letter from the Editor-in-chief:
It has been another turbulent year for Hong Kong, with opposition at the legislature neutered, the independence of the judiciary in question, national security legislation back on the table and Beijing’s hand in the city becoming ever more visible. Whilst citizens remain unable to hold the powerful to account at the ballot box, it is critical that an independent press is able to operate freely and keep Hongkongers informed.
In 2017, our platform matured into a vital and influential part of the local media landscape, having now published over 10,000 news and comment pieces. We made big investments last year in our team, reporting tools, original features and a new opinion section. In the autumn, our digital outlet was finally recognised as a newspaper by the government, allowing us proper access to press events. Despite a limited budget and resources, we were able to punch above our weight and give greater focus to social, human rights and minority issues missed elsewhere.
HKFP is run by journalists, backed by the public and is answerable only to readers. No media tycoon can tell us to change, drop or bury a story. No shareholders or umbrella company can influence our reporting. In an ever-evolving media environment – rife with political pressures, commercial difficulties, and well-funded state-sponsored players – our not-for-profit, reader-backed model is standing up to the test.
We would like to thank our supporters for backing us over the past 12 months, and invite you to review our team’s work as we prepare to report on what may be another roller-coaster
year for the city.
Our mission & 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.
- HKFP has served up over 26.5 million pageviews since our 2015 launch.
- We now reach over 76,800Facebook fans and 81,400Twitter followers.
- No.2 on social media among all Hong Kong English-language news outlets.
- Our team have published over 10,000 news and comment pieces in under three years, hosting writing from 242 authors and organisations.
- We are reaching thousands of readers though our newsletter, apps, LinkedIn, YouTube, Instagram, G+, Telegram and other channels.
- HKFP attracts 30% more social traffic and 70% more direct traffic than 20 other similarly sized local news sites.
- In 2016 alone, HKFP raised over HK$1m directly from donors to fund our operations and safeguard our independence.
The Best of Hong Kong Free Press 2017
Following our pledge to invest in original reporting, the number of homegrown features we published this year almost doubled. We also gave greater emphasis to social, human rights and minority issues and launched a new opinion section.
We published 300 stories on the 2017 Hong Kong leadership election, gaining worldwide traffic to our live blog after we fought to access the vote count. We won exclusive interviews with the city’s last governor Chris Patten; Hong Kong’s ‘public enemy no.1’ pro-independence figure Andy Chan; the democracy activist beaten by police in 2014, Ken Tsang; the anonymous British lesbian at the heart of Hong Kong’s LGBTQ legal fight, “QT”; senior counsel Philip Dykes; and the city’s youngest lawmaker who was ousted by a court.
This July, HKFP ran special features, interviews, columns and reflections on the 20th anniversary of the Handover, Carrie Lam’s inauguration and President Xi Jinping’s visit to the city. We hosted opinion pieces from figures such as activist Joshua Wong, as well as interviews with lawyers and opposition leaders. We assessed outgoing leader Leung Chun-ying’s legacy on civil liberties and profiled the city’s new leader. HKFP was the only English-language outlet to publish full, live rolling video and blogs of the pro-democracy resistance efforts and police crackdown during Xi’s state visit.
We also translated another televised “confession” by a detained China rights lawyer as part of our ongoing coverage.
HKFP published original features on land rights issues in the New Territories and villagers’ resistance efforts; pro-LGBTQ Christians working to reform the church; the issues faced by Hong Kong sex workers; land rights issues in the heart of the city; police targeting of ethnic minorities; activist fans defending their sports centre; a new generation of young, politicised filmmakers and a band composed of asylum seekers.
We covered a community group creating public spaces for independent film; highlighted the unchecked power of local developers; reported on the growing phenomenon of compensated dating; the race to preserve rural minority “mountain songs’’ the grassroots democratic efforts by a ‘shadow district council’; a group seeking to support jailed democracy activists; discrimination faced by the transgender community; sexual harassment in China; the continuing activism and grassroots community work of Hong Kong’s ousted lawmakers and free speech and selective law enforcement.
We also covered the city’s new upcoming national anthem law; controversies surrounding the Zhuhai-Macau bridge; Howard Lam “abduction” case; the anniversary of the Tiananmen massacre; the jailing of pro-democracy activists; the border checkpoint row; and chaos in the legislature, among other topics.
As part of our aim to be “first in English,” we broke dozens of stories this year. We were the first to report in English on the post-election crackdown on pro-democracy activists; the resignation of Hong Kong University’s Vice-Chancellor; the jailing of Mong Kok protesters and activist Joshua Wong; and the conviction of seven policemen for beating a pro-democracy activist.
In 2017, HKFP took a comprehensive look at street harassment in the city; published a story about disenfranchised ethnic minorities, profiled a citizen who spent decades suing the government and interviewed a journalist who was ousted from China. We interviewed one of Hong Kong’s leading human rights lawyers; a veteran pro-democracy politician; an Afghan journalist who survived a massacre and one of Macau’s only pro-democracy activists.
We published two original features about homelessness in Hong Kong, as well as features about environmentally disastrous packaging at supermarkets; poverty among minorities in To Kwa Wan; government misspending; Buddhists seeking a greater political voice; the pushback against controversial high-pressure exams in schools; a Sikh temple which promotes equality though food; street food hawkers returning to a local district and the death of a public housing estate at the hands of big business.
We hosted live coverage of the biggest ever protest by police officers, Typhoon Hato, and the government’s Policy Address. We also employed a freelance researcher in London to scour recently declassified UK files on Hong Kong, producing ten original stories relating to the colonial authorities.
By investing in video, mobile and photographic gear this year, we were able to provide richer multimedia reporting from the ground.
- This year, we launched an HKFP Opinion section for much-needed commentary and analysis missing elsewhere in English. It features renowned writers such as Steve Vines, Sharon Hom, David Bandurski, Ilaria Maria Sala, Tim Hamlett, Yuen Chan, Jason Y. Ng, Vaudine England, Kent Ewing, Sai Pradhan and Evan Fowler.
- We launched new, dedicated sections for Macau and Taiwan coverage and welcomed cartoonist Badiucao to our platform.
- HKFP won recognition as a newspaper this autumn after a years-long fight against the government. Previously, the authorities barred HKFP and other digital media from attending government press conferences to question officials. We succeeded with the support of the Committee to Protect Journalists, Amnesty International, the Journalists Association, Reporters Without Borders and others.
- In February, we “redacted” our website as part of a campaign for Amnesty International. By censoring our homepage for a day, we helped to raise awareness about the increasing threat to free expression in the city.
- We openly advocated for LGBTQ and gender equality, sponsoring Pride 2017 and publishing over 120 stories and features on the topic in 2017 alone.
- The HKFP story was covered by the BBC, Al-Jazeera, Southside Magazine, Hong Kong Tatler, Deutschlandfunk, NOS and RTHK this year. Meanwhile, our staff reported for an international audience on BBC World, ABC Australia and others.
- HKFP moved its operations from Cyberport to The Hive in Kennedy Town following a public appeal. As the team lost access to desktop PCs, a kind donor provided four new Dell computers.
- We rolled out Facebook Live video coverage at events, and published our first 360 sphere image. We also launched and automated our Flickr, Pushbullet, Psiphon and Instagram feeds.
- HKFP staff spoke at four local universities and at conferences in the US, India and Hong Kong. We hosted several groups of local and foreign journalism students
and school groups at our office.
- In 2017, HKFP improved staff conditions to meet or exceed industry standards, and held five professional development workshops.
- HKFP’s chief editor joined the Rory Peck Trust committee.
- In March, we launched a weekly HKFP Dim Sum newsletter to showcase our best coverage. As of December, we are reaching over 3,000 subscribers.
- In June, we rolled out a new Stripe payment system for monthly donations, making it easier and faster for readers to make a one-off or regular donation. The self-hosted system also saved us thousands of dollars in administrative fees.
- In September, we partnered with No Air-Con Night to help promote green habits.
- In November, we linked with RTHK and PEN Hong Kong to run a short story-writing competition, Top Story 2017. It received a record number of entries.
- Also in November, we signed a contract with Dow Jones Factiva to ensure our news is accessible through their databases across the world. The deal also provided a new income stream.
- HKFP Voices aims to provide a free platform for NGOs, charities, academics, minority voices and the powerless. Several new partners joined the platform in 2017.
Placement & Partnerships
Staff & Structure
Hong Kong Free Press is structured as a not-for-profit company, limited by guarantee, not shares. We are answerable only to ourselves and our readers.
In 2018, HKFP will form a board to enhance our accountability and corporate governance. Our current full-time staff include:
Editor-in-Chief & Co-Director Tom Grundy is a British multimedia journalist based in Hong Kong for 12 years. He has a BA in Communications & New Media from Leeds University and an MA in Journalism from the University of Hong Kong. He has contributed to BBC World TV and radio, Huffington Post, Quartz, Global Post, Time Out, Democracy Now, Sky News and Channel News Asia. In 2012, he founded the popular local news/culture platform, hongwrong.com. In 2013, he co-founded a multimedia and legal campaign for domestic workers.
Editorial Director Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. At HKFP, Kris guides the team’s daily Hong Kong political coverage.
Deputy Editor Catherine Lai is a Canadian journalist and photographer who lived in Beijing for almost two years, working in TV and online media. Aside from Hong Kong and mainland affairs, she is also interested in urban spaces, art and feminism. She holds a BA in Literature and Art History from the University of British Columbia. Catherine was quickly promoted to Deputy Editor after joining HKFP in 2016.
Senior Reporter Karen Cheung is a journalist and writer. She is the co-founder and managing editor of Still / Loud, a new music & culture online magazine in Hong Kong. She has written for Al Jazeera, openDemocracy, ArtAsiaPacific, The Underground HK, and HKELD, amongst others. In her past life as a law student, Karen worked at Daly & Associates, DLA Piper, and Eastern Chambers. She is a BA and LLB graduate from the University of Hong Kong, leading HKFP’s legal coverage.
Hong Kong Free Press would not be possible without the support and assistance of our countless tech, accounting and editorial volunteers.
Transparency Report 2016
As a non-profit company, HKFP is externally audited every year. Our income and expenditure for the period between 1/1/2016 and 31/12/2016 was as follows:
|Mandatory Provident Fund (pensions)||HK$50,942|
|Website, newswire text/photo, software||HK$33,083|
|Office, sundry and recruitment expenses||HK$25,801|
|Meals/drinks for volunteers and staff||HK$25,531|
|Legal, professional and audit fees||HK$10,845|
|Merchandise and delivery expenses||HK$10,500|
|Stationery and printing||HK$6,624|
Our balance as of the end of the year was a deficit of HK$45,569.
- In comparison, HKFP ended 2015 with a surplus of HK91,654 after tax.
- We are on target to end 2017 with a surplus.
- As a non-profit, any surplus is recycled back into the company.
- 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 automation to save on labour costs. In 2016, we also enjoyed free rent at our office courtesy of D100 Radio.
- During 2016, HKFP employed 5-6 full-time staff members.
86% of all spending goes directly towards supporting our hard-working 24/7 news team
- Our income streams in 2016 included: Donations, Google/YouTube display ads; directly purchased rate card ads; events; content sales; and merchandise sales.
- Our expenses in 2016 included: AFP news wire service; accountancy costs; reporting equipment; audit and tax services; company secretarial services; accountancy and security software; Google Suite tools; web hosting and domains; employee insurance; travel and transport; postage/stationery; and meals/drinks for staff and volunteers.
- HKFP will shift towards a monthly donor model after our 2018 annual fundraiser. As of the end of 2017, we already have a total of 99 HKFP Patrons. We need around 500 patrons in order to become fully self-sustaining.
- Through Fringebacker/PayPal, 59 monthly donors give an average of HK$268 – totaling HK$13,535/month. Through our self-hosted Stripe payment system, we have 40 patrons giving an average of HK$152 – totalling HK$6,232/month.
- We receive HK$19,767 from patrons each month, excluding those who donate by cheque/transfer. Donors are overwhelmingly from Hong Kong, though we also have backers in the US, UK, Australia and China.
Press Freedom Update
- A former editor at pro-Beijing Hong Kong newspaper Commercial Daily resigns to seek asylum in the US.
- Pro-Beijing newspaper Sing Pao says its management received threats in the lead-up to the chief executive election.
- The Hong Kong Journalists’ Association files a court challenge against the government’s non-recognition of digital media.
- Major news broadcaster i-Cable is sold to property tycoons amid financial distress.
- A cybersquatter renews an HKFP domain name to misdirect web users.
- Investigative magazine Next enters into a sale agreement with businessman Kenny Wee.
- The Hong Kong government lifts its ban on digital media outlets following a years-long campaign.
- Police launch an investigation after threatening letters are sent to HKFP staff and their families.
- HKFP attends its first government event after the lifting of the digital media ban.
- Online outlet HK01 is criticised by the Journalists’ Association for its treatment of declassified Tiananmen massacre files.
HKFP’s Priorities in 2018
- In 2018, HKFP will focus on growing the number of HKFP Patrons – monthly donors – in order to become more sustainable. We will also start running our funding campaigns independently to save costs.
- We will further diversify our pool of contributors to ensure we are amplifying views from minority communities.
- HKFP will form a governing board and code of ethics to improve our accountability.
- We will seek to expand our reach in English-speaking areas of Hong Kong, and host more community events.
- Following our 2018 funding drive, we will invest yet more resources in original reporting, with more homegrown daily reports as well as weekend features and interviews.