Freedom of the Press

Hong Kong *

Hong Kong *

Freedom of the Press 2005

2005 Scores

Press Status

Free

Press Freedom Score
(0 = best, 100 = worst)

28

Political Environment
(0 = best, 40 = worst)

9

Economic Environment
(0 = best, 30 = worst)

8

Formerly a British colony with rule of law and limited democratization, Hong Kong has seen freedom of speech challenged after retrocession to Chinese rule. A strong reaction by a population committed to enjoying freedom of information has helped ward off attempts to muzzle a media far freer than any on the Chinese mainland. In July 2003, more than 500,000 people demonstrated against a national security bill, proposed under Article 23 of Hong Kong's post-1997 constitution, which threatened Hong Kong's political, religious, and media freedoms. The demonstration led to the resignation of two ministers and forced chief executive Tung Chee-hwa to table the controversial legislation. New legislation to bolster media freedom is currently under consideration by the Legislative Council.

In 2004, threats to media freedom took the form of intimidation of outspoken critics of Beijing, particularly in the run-up to the September elections. Albert Cheng, talk show host of the Commercial Radio program "Teacup in a Storm," left the program in May, citing death threats and a suffocating political environment. His successor, Allen Lee, resigned after coming under pressure by mainland Chinese officials over his pro-democracy views. A third Commercial Radio talk show host, Raymond Wong, quit his program, "Close Encounter of the Political Kind," because of "physical and mental exhaustion." According to Radio Free Asia, Wong later admitted that he was first offered money to go off the air and was then attacked by unidentified assailants. Over 400 academics signed a petition protesting these threats to freedom of expression and asserting that the resignations represented a worrying trend, while the Hong Kong Journalists Association called on the government to improve protection of media personalities. However, in July the anticorruption agency conducted raids on seven of Hong Kong's most influential newspapers after the newspapers published the name of a protected witness who claimed she had been detained against her will. A subsequent governmental review of the agency's tactics found no wrongdoing.

Although 4 of 16 daily newspapers are supported financially by the Chinese government, numerous privately owned print and broadcast media publish freely, regularly criticize official policies, provide diverse views, and cover sensitive topics. Nevertheless, the fact that many media owners have substantial business interests on the mainland gives rise to a degree of self-censorship at some outlets.