(18 March, 2020, Hong Kong) In response to the Chinese Foreign Ministry’s decision to order reporters from the New York Times, the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal to return media passes within 10 days and prohibit those newspapers’ journalists from working in Mainland China, including Hong Kong and Macau, Legislative Councillor (Information Technology) Charles Mok today expresses strong indignation that this decision from the Chinese authority has breached the Basic Law and will further erode press freedom under the principle of One Country, Two Systems and Hong Kong’s status as an international financial centre, should the Hong Kong government comply with the ban.
Mok moved to raise an urgent question to the government in today’s Legislative Council meeting to discuss the matter but the request was rejected by LegCo Chairman Andrew Leung, who ruled the subject matter “lacked urgency”. Mok disagrees: “The Central Government effectively ordered the Hong Kong SAR government to undertake an action against our Basic Law. If we do not have a chance to question the government today, they may have done it by next week.”
According to Article 22 and 27 of the Basic Law, Hong Kong has the autonomy to administer the city’s affairs, including immigration control, and that the freedom of the press should be duly protected. The Hong Kong government had previously denied entry and work visa of foreign journalists, severely hampering freedom of speech and press of Hong Kong, and also hurting the confidence of foreign investors towards Hong Kong’s rule of law and autonomy.
Mok regards the latest move by the Chinese government as a devastating blow to Hong Kong’s business environment and economy following the dethroning of Hong Kong as the ‘freest economy’ in the world for the first time in 25 years by the Heritage Foundation. At this critical period when the United States government is expected to report on the certification of Hong Kong’s autonomy according to the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, such a sensitive measure could bring severely negative impact.
In the past year, the New York Times, the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal had conducted in-depth investigative coverage on Hong Kong’s anti-extradition movement and documented police violence extensively. “The freedom of the press in Hong Kong will be destroyed if the Hong Kong government decides to comply with Beijing to silence international media and purge journalists and other local media from the city”, says Mok.
Mok urges the Hong Kong government to ensure that the incident concerning Financial Times journalist Victor Mallet will not reoccur and that foreign journalists should not be denied entry or work visa for political reasons.
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