China’s Clamp Down in Hong Kong Drives Exodus, Dismantles Free Press: Part 1

Since the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) implemented the Hong Kong National Security Law in June 2020, the situation in Hong Kong has become increasingly restrictive. Faced with pressure, elites from all walks of life have chosen to leave Hong Kong. Human rights organizations point out that the freedom of the press in Hong Kong is almost destroyed, and the role of Hong Kong journalists is being redefined.Lee Ka-chiu, a policeman turned politician and the only candidate for the next Chief Executive position, held a briefing on his political platform at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre on April 29. At least five independent media outlets, including The Epoch Times, Hong Kong In-media, Sound of Hope, GettyImages, and The Reporter were denied registration or access to interviews by campaign staff. The campaign staff said that only invited media would be allowed to enter the venue. When a reporter asked about the criteria for determining the media list, they explained that their list was different from the list of media registered under the Government News and Media Information System. Only five days before, when Lee was asked by reporters if he would commit to defending freedom of the press, he replied  “freedom of the press has always existed, and there is no need to use the word ‘defense.’” On April 25, the Hong Kong Foreign Correspondents’ Club (FCC) suddenly announced that it would “suspend” this year’s Human Rights Press Awards, to not “inadvertently commit legal violations.” To date, the award has been given 26 times to journalists for their professional and outstanding reporting on human rights. On April 26, the London-based human rights organization Hong Kong Watch released a report stating that suppression by the authorities has led to nearly total destruction of freedom of the press in Hong Kong, and that freedom is being replaced by pro-Beijing media and the official Chinese propaganda machine. The authors believe that the role of Hong Kong journalists’ is changing, and the upcoming law targeting “fake news” is likely to become a tool for the authorities to suppress dissidents. Elites Leaving in Droves After the Hong Kong National Security Law was enacted, the media under the government was impacted, and many independent media outlets were forced to suspend operations, some were even taken to court. A large number of journalists and senior media professionals had to leave Hong Kong. On this growing list are Joseph Lian, former Editor-in-chief of Hong Kong Economic Journal; Cheng Jing-han, founder of Digital Broadcasting Corporation Hong Kong Limited; Lou Sai-leung, founder of House News and Singjai; Can Yongmei, the former Editor-in-chief of Open Magazine; Yau Ching-yuen, founder of Post 852; Ng Chi-sum and Tsang Chi-ho, hosts of RTHK; Chip Tsao, “the No.1 Talent in Hong Kong;” Simon Shen, scholar of international relations; Wong Chau-sang and To Man-chak, Hong Kong actors; and Shiu Yeuk-yuen, film producer and host. The most talented artists and media professionals are leaving Hong Kong one after another. In October last year, a Hong Kong expatriates’ association, Hongkongers in Britain (HKB), released “Work and Employment Report for Recently Arrived Hongkongers.” According to the report, nearly 70 percent of Hongkongers who have just arrived in the UK under British National (Overseas) (BNO) visas have university degrees or a higher education, 66.8 percent have more than 11 years of work experience, 54.8 percent had a monthly salary of more than HK$30,000 (about $3,823) in Hong Kong, and 69.4 percent self-identified as financially sound. Ah To, a current affairs cartoonist and illustrator; Michael Vidler, human rights lawyer who represented the Wong Chi-fung case; and Chung Kim-wah, Deputy Chief Executive Officer of Hong Kong Public Opinion Research Institute (HKPORI) also left Hong Kong. ‘Parting is a Forced Decision,’ Cartoonist and Illustrator Ah To, who is known for his criticism of current affairs, left a message on his Facebook page on April 26 saying that he left Hong Kong because he wants to “continue to create for Hong Kong, but the mental pressure of creating current affairs comics in Hong Kong was too huge, parting is a forced decision.” Political illustrator Ah To poses with his work “Guillotine” after his cartoon column in one of the city’s popular news magazines was to be axed in Hong Kong, China, on July 28, 2020. (Tyrone Siu/Reuters) Ah To apologized to the netizens, and expressed his complicated feelings when leaving. “Now the soul is left in the hometown, but the body has been exiled,” he wrote. Ah To did not disclose his destination, but in the background of his uploaded picture “Primary school chick,” you can see Big Ben and the Palace of Westminster on the River Thames. Ah To has been engaged in illustrating current affairs comics for 11 years, and once considered giving up or transforming at the beginning of the social movement, “But now is the time

China’s Clamp Down in Hong Kong Drives Exodus, Dismantles Free Press: Part 1

Since the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) implemented the Hong Kong National Security Law in June 2020, the situation in Hong Kong has become increasingly restrictive. Faced with pressure, elites from all walks of life have chosen to leave Hong Kong. Human rights organizations point out that the freedom of the press in Hong Kong is almost destroyed, and the role of Hong Kong journalists is being redefined.

Lee Ka-chiu, a policeman turned politician and the only candidate for the next Chief Executive position, held a briefing on his political platform at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre on April 29. At least five independent media outlets, including The Epoch Times, Hong Kong In-media, Sound of Hope, GettyImages, and The Reporter were denied registration or access to interviews by campaign staff.

The campaign staff said that only invited media would be allowed to enter the venue. When a reporter asked about the criteria for determining the media list, they explained that their list was different from the list of media registered under the Government News and Media Information System.

Only five days before, when Lee was asked by reporters if he would commit to defending freedom of the press, he replied  “freedom of the press has always existed, and there is no need to use the word ‘defense.’”

On April 25, the Hong Kong Foreign Correspondents’ Club (FCC) suddenly announced that it would “suspend” this year’s Human Rights Press Awards, to not “inadvertently commit legal violations.” To date, the award has been given 26 times to journalists for their professional and outstanding reporting on human rights.

On April 26, the London-based human rights organization Hong Kong Watch released a report stating that suppression by the authorities has led to nearly total destruction of freedom of the press in Hong Kong, and that freedom is being replaced by pro-Beijing media and the official Chinese propaganda machine.

The authors believe that the role of Hong Kong journalists’ is changing, and the upcoming law targeting “fake news” is likely to become a tool for the authorities to suppress dissidents.

Elites Leaving in Droves

After the Hong Kong National Security Law was enacted, the media under the government was impacted, and many independent media outlets were forced to suspend operations, some were even taken to court. A large number of journalists and senior media professionals had to leave Hong Kong. On this growing list are Joseph Lian, former Editor-in-chief of Hong Kong Economic Journal; Cheng Jing-han, founder of Digital Broadcasting Corporation Hong Kong Limited; Lou Sai-leung, founder of House News and Singjai; Can Yongmei, the former Editor-in-chief of Open Magazine; Yau Ching-yuen, founder of Post 852; Ng Chi-sum and Tsang Chi-ho, hosts of RTHK; Chip Tsao, “the No.1 Talent in Hong Kong;” Simon Shen, scholar of international relations; Wong Chau-sang and To Man-chak, Hong Kong actors; and Shiu Yeuk-yuen, film producer and host. The most talented artists and media professionals are leaving Hong Kong one after another.

In October last year, a Hong Kong expatriates’ association, Hongkongers in Britain (HKB), released “Work and Employment Report for Recently Arrived Hongkongers.” According to the report, nearly 70 percent of Hongkongers who have just arrived in the UK under British National (Overseas) (BNO) visas have university degrees or a higher education, 66.8 percent have more than 11 years of work experience, 54.8 percent had a monthly salary of more than HK$30,000 (about $3,823) in Hong Kong, and 69.4 percent self-identified as financially sound.

Ah To, a current affairs cartoonist and illustrator; Michael Vidler, human rights lawyer who represented the Wong Chi-fung case; and Chung Kim-wah, Deputy Chief Executive Officer of Hong Kong Public Opinion Research Institute (HKPORI) also left Hong Kong.

‘Parting is a Forced Decision,’ Cartoonist and Illustrator

Ah To, who is known for his criticism of current affairs, left a message on his Facebook page on April 26 saying that he left Hong Kong because he wants to “continue to create for Hong Kong, but the mental pressure of creating current affairs comics in Hong Kong was too huge, parting is a forced decision.”

HONGKONG-SECURITY-ARTISTS
Political illustrator Ah To poses with his work “Guillotine” after his cartoon column in one of the city’s popular news magazines was to be axed in Hong Kong, China, on July 28, 2020. (Tyrone Siu/Reuters)

Ah To apologized to the netizens, and expressed his complicated feelings when leaving. “Now the soul is left in the hometown, but the body has been exiled,” he wrote.

Ah To did not disclose his destination, but in the background of his uploaded picture “Primary school chick,” you can see Big Ben and the Palace of Westminster on the River Thames.

Ah To has been engaged in illustrating current affairs comics for 11 years, and once considered giving up or transforming at the beginning of the social movement, “But now is the time when Hong Kong needs current affairs comics the most and least at the same time, so I want to stick with it. I continue to walk with Hong Kong through creation from a distance, so that the history of Hong Kong in this era will not be silent.” He wrote at the end of his message, “May good people cherish and preserve goodness in various forms.”

Ah To’s real name is Ng Kap-chuen. His cartoons mainly satirize what is happening politically and in society. He has won various awards such as the Best Internet Creation Award and the Best Current Affairs Comics. His creation “Battle of Golden Monsters” is very popular and the character “Primary school chick” is deeply rooted in the hearts of the people.

Michael Vidler, Human Rights Lawyer Left Hong Kong for the UK

On April 25, human rights lawyer Michael Vidler showed up at the Hong Kong Airport and boarded a flight to the UK. He was another human rights lawyer who left after Paul Harris.

At about 9:30 that night, a reporter from Wen Wei Po, the mouthpiece of the CCP, photographed Vidler at the Hong Kong Airport departure hall. In the photo, a Chinese woman, thought to be Vidler’s wife, accompanied him.

The reporter asked Vidler whether he had communicated with Paul Harris, the former chairman of the Bar Association who left Hong Kong after being “cautioned to meet” by the National Security Department. He asked why the law firm suddenly closed. Is he worried about being sanctioned by the Hong Kong National Security Law? Vidler did not respond to any of the questions.

Vidler , a British national, is a well-known human rights lawyer specializing in criminal litigation. He  represented Wong Chi-fung, Tsang Kin-chiu, Chu Hoi-dick, and other social movement participants, as well as the Indonesian female journalist Veby Indah who was blinded in one eye by a police projectile during a demonstration. It is reported that Vidler’s law firm (Vidler & Co. Solicitors) submitted a notice to the Law Society of Hong Kong of its intention to close down on June 3 this year.

Epoch Times Photo
Student leader Joshua Wong (L) gives a thumbs up as he exits a courthouse with his lawyer Michael Vidler (R) after Wong was released on bail in Hong Kong on Nov. 27, 2014. (Aaron Tam/AFP/Getty Images)

Vidler was elected to the legal functional constituency election committee for two consecutive terms in 2011 and 2017, and participated in a silent march of lawyers who dressed in black. He opposed the amendment of Fugitive offenders Ordinance and the political prosecution of the Department of Justice. He once claimed to ask the former president of the Law Society, Lam San-keung, to withdraw his remark that “a judge’s patriotism will not harm judicial independence.”

Chung Kim-wah, Deputy Executive Officer of Hong Kong Public Opinion Research Institute (HKPORI) was forced to leave Hong Kong. He had been interviewed by the National Security Department three times.

On April 24, Chung posted on social media: “I Don’t want to be a deserter, but I have to avoid tyranny.” He wrote that he had never planned to immigrate, “My lifetime ambition and responsibility are all in Hong Kong.” “But at present, there is no space for sincere words, only lies and lies. For those of us who are still a bit turbulent, Hong Kong may not be a place where we can live normally without intimidation.”

After arriving in Britain, Chung accepted an interview with The Epoch Times’s “Precious Dialogues”  program on April 25. He said that he decided to leave Hong Kong in February this year because he could no longer speak safely and felt he had to leave before he was accused (of breaking the law) by the regime.

Before leaving Hong Kong, Chung and HKPORI were repeatedly pressured by the Hong Kong Government and the CCP mouthpiece media. He said he was interviewed by the police under the Hong Kong National Security Law and was followed by unidentified vehicles.

In November last year, before the first Legislative Council election after the CCP changed Hong Kong’s electoral system, HKPORI conducted a public opinion poll on citizens’ voting intentions. The poll options included blank votes and no votes. The authorities said the poll incites others to leave their vote blank or to not vote, violating the newly revised Election Regulations. At the same time, People’s Daily, the mouthpiece of the CCP, published an article slandering HKPORI for “anti-China disruptors in Hong Kong” and “incitement with an academic cloak.”

In April, HKPORI investigated the Hong Kong people’s views on the Russian-Ukrainian war, but the CCP mouthpiece media quoted a fake questionnaire to discredit the original, claiming that HKPORI violated the Hong Kong National Security Law. HKPORI was forced to cancel publication of the investigation result.

HKPORI is a well-known institute for public opinion, and was formerly known as Public Opinion Research Project of the University of Hong Kong. In recent years, HKPORI has been repeatedly attacked by the pro-Communist camp. In 2020, HKPORI conducted polls for the Pro-democracy primaries, and the office was raided by the police. The 47 people who organized and participated in the primary election were later charged with “conspiracy to subvert state power” under the National Security Law. This is the largest prosecution since the implement of the National Security Law.

(To be continued)


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Julia Ye is an Australian-based reporter who joined The Epoch Times in 2021. She mainly covers China-related issues and has been a reporter since 2003.