Journalists in Hong Kong threatened over reporting on Chinese government

Hong Kong (HK), being a special administrative region (SAR) of China due to its former colonial status within the British Empire, is governed by different laws and regulations from mainland China (MC), since although it is technically part of China and is dependent on it for military and political protection, HK is an autonomous region with its own media and administration. Most notably, HK has a significantly higher level of political freedom and expression, as it has private press where journalists are able to conduct free reporting on a free choice of topics of inquiry free from censorship.

These discrepancies have led to some political tension between Hong Kong and mainland China, since there have been incidents which were covered up in mainland China but leaked in HK in scandalous fashion e.g. the SARS outbreak in 2003. This tension has seen new heights in recent years, namely the Umbrella Movement where protesters took to the streets to occupy important landmarks of HK and effectively halted civic operation in aims of expressing their call for democracy and transparency in the elections of their government officials. Needless to say that the central government in Beijing is not happy about this, as seen in the incarceration of the leaders of the movement, though on a much lower level of repression than that imposed on political dissent in MC (e.g. Gui Minhai), since HK has its own (western-style) criminal and justice system which has seen the recent release of Joshua Wong et al. who have re-entered civic life in heroic fashion and are now nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. As HK is still technically an autonomous region, it is impossible for the Chinese authorities to directly impose its jurisdiction on its citizens, which is not to say that they cannot suppress the voices of the people in Hong Kong but only that they have to do so rather subtly and indirectly to avoid violating the political agreement between HK, China and Britain.

In past year or so, however, there has been some disturbing news which seems to indicate a waning in the level of political expression in HK. As mentioned above, the people of HK have reacted strongly to the legislative procedures behind the elections of the HK government officials. This has led to popular movement, as described above, as well as the establishment of grassroot organisations that have taken the issue of political independence seriously and have sought to provide as much coverage and exposure of these issues as possible. One such organization is the Hong Kong Free Press (HKFP) founded by Tom Grundy and co..

Tom Grundy is a UK citizen who travelled to HK and worked steadily to establish and expand the HKFP. Although it is still relatively small as it relies on a small team of administrators who work on a non-profit basis, HKFP is growing exponentially and is fast becoming an international journalist platform for HK news for people both local and abroad. It has hence established itself as one of the main e-platforms for grassroot opinion in HK, which is a remarkable achievement.

Last year, however, it was reported that Tom Grundy received letters of threat from unknown sources coercing him to stop what he had been doing by insinuating possible dangers to Tom and his associates. More dishearteningly, his family in the UK have also received similar letters of abuse which not only indicates a common source of threat but also show rather frighteningly the extent and power of the aggressor who has been able to track the whereabouts of Grundy’s family abroad and intimidate them in a similar fashion. Reports have been made to the proper authorities who have promised to offer safety and protection, though the aggressor has not yet been discovered which means that Grundy and his team are still working in fear of the safety of themselves and their loved ones.

As mentioned before, it is one thing to police your own citizens within your legal territory but quite another to extend the same courtesy to foreign nationals who have affiliations abroad. HK lies in a grey area in that it is an autonomous region which marginally exempts its citizens from central influence. The people of HK have reacted admirably to the pressures from above by making a collective effort to mobilise and directly engage in this long and hard battle for freedom and democracy, yet this magnificent spectacle of popular movement and grassroot determination has been dampened by threats against certain prominent members (Joshua Wong, Tom Grundy etc) who have been intimidated not by law and force but by behind-the-scenes manipulation and terror. There may be barriers between different political regions and countries, but in the modern age of globalization and international amnesty the world has gone far past its feudal territorial past, which has seen the fight against repression extend way beyond the territory in question, not only for the freedom fighters but also for the suppressors. The fight continues and the people of HK beckons.


Langley Henry

Langley Henry is a postdoctorate Research fellow in political science at St John’s College, University of Cambridge after having done his undergraduate (Politics, Philosophy, Economics (PPE)) and postgraduate (Political Science and History of Western Thought) degrees (B.A., M.Sc., DPhil) at Balliol College, University of Oxford. He is the author of several essays that have been published in peer-reviewed journals and is now working on publishing his Oxford doctoral thesis as a monograph with Oxford University Press. Other than his academic work, he is a keen blogger and has written on contemporary and historical political topics as well as on western contemporary music.


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