Freedom House Warns of Threats to Hong Kong Media Rights
Freedom House today expressed deep concern over evidence of growing threats to press freedom in Hong Kong.
Freedom House, which monitors the state of freedom around the world, pointed specifically to the recent resignation of three well-known public affairs talk show commentators. The three resigned after receiving threats over the content of their broadcasts, especially their criticism of Beijing's policies towards Hong Kong. In one case, the office of a talk show commentator was ransacked.
In the latest incident, Allen Lee resigned as host of a popular talk show after being pressured to tone down his criticism of China policies. Earlier, two other well-known talk show hosts, Albert Cheng and Raymond Wong resigned, reportedly under intense pressure from Beijing or its representatives in Hong Kong.
"We are troubled by this setback to press freedom in Hong Kong," said Jennifer Windsor, Freedom House executive director. "We think it is no coincidence that pressure has been put on independent radio voices in light of the upcoming legislative elections and the recent decision by Beijing that it would block any attempt to democratize the current political system in Hong Kong."
In its latest survey of global press freedom, Freedom House rated China as "Not Free," and gave it a score ranking it among the countries with the lowest level of press freedom. At the same time, Freedom House noted that in contrast to China proper, Hong Kong enjoyed a relatively high degree of press freedom.
"Press freedom has been the linchpin of liberty in Hong Kong," Ms. Windsor said. "Indeed, Hong Kong has traditionally enjoyed one of Asia's freest media environments. We are concerned that an assault on the press emanating from Beijing could represent a major first step towards a broader assault on political rights and civil liberties."
Freedom House called on the authorities in Hong Kong to fully investigate charges of threats and harassment directed at journalists. It further urged that the government in China cease its threats against journalists and democracy advocates in Hong Kong. It also called on the U.S. State Department to more closely monitor democracy conditions in Hong Kong and convey its concerns over the state of press freedom to the Beijing government.
"It is essential that the United States make its concerns known before conditions deteriorate further and Hong Kong's freedoms suffer more direct threats," said Ms. Windsor.
Freedom House is an independent watchdog organization that supports democratic change, monitors the status of freedom around the world, and advocates for democracy and human rights.