Hong Kong’s largest journalists’ association plans to disband amid government probe

Taipei, April 20, 2022 – Hong Kong authorities should stop persecuting, harassing and imprisoning members of the press and ensure that journalists and journalists’ associations can do their work freely and safely, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Wednesday.

On April 13, the Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA) informed its members that it would hold a “Extraordinary General Assembly” on Saturday April 23, to discuss the future of the group, according to news reports.

Ronson Chan Ronsing, the president of the association, told the South China Morning Post than the HKJA, which reported 486 members last year, is considering disbanding as some members worry about their future following the arrest of veteran journalist Allan Au Ka-lun last week and the closure of several outlets in recent months, including the pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily and non-profit information sites Stand newsand New citizens.

“Any decision to disband the Hong Kong Journalists Association would mark a sad day for press freedom in the Chinese-controlled territory, which has seen a progressive attack on independent journalism in recent years,” said Steven Butler. , CPJ’s Asia Program Coordinator, in Washington, D.C. “The HKJA has for years provided a strong voice in support of Hong Kong’s once-thriving journalistic community and its voice will be sorely missed.”

HKJA, a staunch defender of press freedom in the city, was attacked by authorities and the pro-Beijing press since early 2019, when journalists presented HKJA-issued press passes to police while covering mass protests against a controversial bill allowing extradition to mainland China. Last September, when the Hong Kong police amended one of its general orders allowing the police to decide for themselves whether someone was an accredited journalist, the HKJA was among the press associations that publicly condemned the action.

In January, the Trade Union Registry, a government body regulating unions in the city, launched an investigation into HKJA and asked the group to provide information about its finances and past events, according to news reports. The registry’s deputy labor officer, Colin Leung, told CPJ via email that the registry sent an email to HKJA asking the group to “provide information about its activities that are suspected to be inconsistent with the union ordinance and/or union rules,” Leung wrote. “As follow-up action is ongoing, RTU is not commenting on individual cases.”

CPJ emailed Hong Kong police for comment, but did not immediately receive a response.

CPJ’s 2021 prison census found that China remained the world’s worst jailer of journalists for the third consecutive year. It was the first time that Hong Kong journalists appeared in CPJ’s census.

Andrew B. Reiter