Foreign journalists urged to unite after Hong Kong press attacks

By Rebecca Unsworth, April 2, 2014

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The Hong Kong Foreign Correspondents' Club (FCC) and foreign journalists raised concerns Monday over freedom of the press in Hong Kong and warned of "chilling effects" after high profile attacks on members of the city's media.

The February 26 chopping attack on former Ming Pao editor Kevin Lau Chun was followed by an attack on two Hong Kong Morning News Media Group execs by two masked assailants on March 19, leading to public protests from journalists.

Francis Moriarty, head of the the FCC, urged international government bodies to unite by closely monitoring and commenting on the situation in Hong Kong.

"The attacks of course have a chilling effect. That’s why 13,000 journalists and supporters marched for press freedom," Moriarty said. "I don’t think there’s anything any overseas government can do to protect us, but it’s important they watch and monitor and comment. The Hong Kong public cares a great deal about how Hong Kong is perceived overseas because it affects views of potential investors."

The US Bureau of Consular Affairs made a statement that they were "troubled" by the attacks, with spokesperson Jen Psaki last month urging Hong Kong officials to “fully and transparently investigate these incidents” .

According to Moriarty, the violence around press freedom primarily affects Chinese national journalists or people who are ethnically Chinese with citizenship in other countries, but is not limited to them. American journalist Mike Forsythe received death threats before he moved to Hong Kong from Beijing last year, after researching the wealth of President Xi Jinping's family for a Bloomsberg News report. "The threat mentioned that he had a wife and two children … and made me fear for my children," Forsythe's wife, sociologist and former journalist Leta Hong Fincher said. However, Fincher said she was "deeply moved" by the Hong Kong journalists' protest and emphasised that “in the face of heavy intimidation, it is even more critical for journalists to continue to resist self-censorship and speak truth to power".

Hong Kong has been continually slipping down Reporters without Borders' "World Press Freedom Index" since 2002 when it was rated 18th, and the top in Asia. This year, it was rated 61st, dropping three places from 58th last year.

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