Freedom of the Press
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Hong Kong *
Press Freedom Score (0 = best, 100 = worst)
Legal Environment(0 = best, 30 = worst)
Political Environment(0 = best, 40 = worst)
Economic Environment(0 = best, 30 = worst)
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 that 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 political, religious, and media freedoms. The demonstrations led to the resignation of two ministers and forced chief executive Tung Chee-hwa to table the controversial legislation.
In June 2005, Donald Tsang, a career civil servant popular with the public and with Beijing, was sworn in as the new chief executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (the unpopular Tung Chee-hwa had resigned in March). From the perspective of many in the Hong Kong media, this was a step in the wrong direction for media freedom, since Tsang had previously made headlines for criticizing a political satire program and expressing distaste over live coverage of horse racing, preferring to promote programs that explained government policies. In July 2004, the anticorruption agency had 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. Although a subsequent governmental review of the agency's tactics found no wrongdoing, in 2005 a legislative subcommittee reviewed the law governing the search and seizure of journalists' notes and has pushed for clarifying legislation to improve judicial oversight. Thus far, the administration has decided against improving judicial oversight in such cases. Outright attacks on the press are rare; however, the Committee to Protect Journalists reported in November that a small bomb was detonated at the offices of the independent weekly Ming Pao, injuring one staff member.
Hong Kong has 16 privately owned newspapers; 4 of them are funded by pro-Beijing interests and follow the Chinese Communist Party's lead on political and social issues. Despite cases of intimidation and beatings that led to the resignation of two radio show hosts in 2004 and widespread self-censorship, newspapers, magazines, and radio and television channels remain outspoken, and political debate can be vigorous. However, a survey of the program staff at Radio Television Hong Kong revealed that 70 percent of the staff members polled believed that government pressure compromised editorial independence. International media organizations operate freely in Hong Kong, and foreign reporters do not need government-issued identification to operate. Internet use per capita is high at 69 percent of the population, and there are no restrictions on internet content.