On June 30, 2019, Beijing imposed a wide-reaching national security law. Though the situation is uncertain, and the law untested, HKFP is regularly examining how it can adapt amid heightened press freedom concerns.
How is HKFP reacting to the security law?
The security law includes several articles which are of concern to the press, with Article 9 proposing “guidance, supervision and regulation” of the media. It is also noted that press freedom is guaranteed in the security law, Hong Kong’s mini-constitution and the Chinese constitution.
Though the situation is unclear and the law has yet to be tested in courts, HKFP has nevertheless sought legal and business advice. We expect the local media will have to navigate increased bureaucratic and legal scrutiny owing to the passages in the law which make reference to the press.
How does HKFP protect sources?
All HKFP staff use only work-provided, encrypted phones and we offer several channels for secure communication about sensitive matters. Under Article 43 of the security law, any refusal to hand over information about a suspect’s identity can lead to a fine or jail sentence. Meanwhile, Article 4 of the security law guarantees the freedom of the press.
HKFP staff are ready to fulfil our commitment to uphold press freedom and protect sources who we rely on as part of the normal, traditional news-gathering process. We will uphold the journalistic tradition in handling sensitive information carefully and resist data requests to the fullest extent of the law and our means.
Will HKFP’s reporting be affected?
It is difficult to predict how the courts may interpret the law – officials are giving mixed messages over how it affects the press. Specific questions about what is acceptable and not remain unanswered. HKFP is nevertheless strengthening efforts to protect sources and pledges to continue reporting as normal in accordance with our own governing Code of Ethics. The HKFP team is committed to the city and do not plan to leave.
Is it still ok to donate to HKFP?
Yes. As always, donations to HKFP are carried out securely via robust, industry-standard encryption. Transaction records are stored behind multiple-factor security. Like any company, the law obliges us to keep records of income/spending for book-keeping purposes – it also obliges us to keep records secure and private. Accounting records are overseen by our accountant and yearly auditors.
As a strictly impartial news outlet registered with the government, we expect to continue fundraising and accepting contributions from our readers at home and abroad, and there is no evidence of this changing. For those who prefer complete anonymity, HKFP accepts Bitcoin and – at our fundraising events and through CoinDragon – we accept cash. We also accept donations of gear or sponsorship of running costs. There are over a dozen ways to support us – please contact us for further details.
Can contributors ask for content to be removed? Can writers use a pseudonym?
Since adopting our Code of Ethics in 2020, we do not allow new writers to use pseudonyms except in “very exceptional circumstances.” This is in the interests of accountability, transparency and credibility. For similar reasons, HKFP will resist all requests to remove content from its archive – a historical record – except in extreme, provable circumstances and at our discretion.
Has press freedom been affected since the security law was enacted?
After the security law was adopted, police arrested the owner of the pro-democracy Apple Daily Jimmy Lai in August, 2020 for allegedly “colluding” with foreign forces. Over 100 officers raided the tabloid’s offices that month, and they were raided again in June 2021. Later that month, the Immigration Department denied a work visa for HKFP’s incoming editor without reason. In September, 2020, new police guidelines stated that the Force would no longer recognise local press passes and – instead – only outlets registered with the government would be recognised. In November 2020, an RTHK journalist who investigated the police was arrested over accessing vehicle registration records amid a wider crackdown on the public broadcaster. It has also been reported that the government is considering a “fake news” law, whilst a Beijing official has said media outlets should be governed “by patriots” in Hong Kong.