National security law imposed in Hong Kong; HK Journalist Association refused to shut

Hong Kong: The Hong Kong Journalist Association has refused shut amid China imposing national security law on media houses in Hong Kong.

Writing in The New York Times, Austin Ramzy, a Hong Kong reporter, said, “Unions have folded. Political parties have shut down. Independent media outlets and civil rights groups have disappeared. The Hong Kong government, its authority backed fully by Beijing, is shutting down the city’s civil society, once the most vibrant in Asia, one organization at a time.”

“But one group, the Hong Kong Journalists Association, has refused to fold, even as Hong Kong’s security secretary repeatedly singles it out for public criticism,” he added.

“We will try to fight to the last moment,” said Ronson Chan, the association’s chairman. “But honestly, it’s a gamble. How cruelly will the Beijing government treat us? We know the history of journalists in the People’s Republic of China,” the report said.

Ramzy, in its report, said that the authorities have used a national security law, which was introduced last year after months of widespread anti-government protest, to silence dissent. Dozens of groups have been forced to disband.

Human Rights Watch, which is based in New York, left Hong Kong after it was penalised by China in retaliation for American legislation supporting Hong Kong protesters in 2019, the report said.
“Our China team continues to function and to track Hong Kong developments closely,” said Sophie Richardson, the China director at Human Rights Watch.

According to the report, Amnesty International said on Monday that it was closing its local and regional offices in Hong Kong because the security law had made it impossible for human rights groups to operate in the city.

“Activist groups have also been decimated. The Civil Human Rights Front, which had organised large marches, closed in August after Beijing’s office in Hong Kong accused it of opposing China and the police opened an investigation into its funding. The Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China, which organised an annual vigil to mourn those killed in the 1989 crackdown on the Tiananmen protest movement, disbanded after the authorities began looking into its funding and accused most of its leadership of national security offenses, including subversion. The authorities removed displays from the group’s museum and blocked access in Hong Kong to the group’s website,” the report said.

Many groups continue to operate, but some fear that the crackdown could spread.

“We are not interested at all in politics,” said Brian Wong, a member of Liber Research Community, an independent research institute that focuses on land use. “But from what we can see on the mainland, eventually all of civil society can be seen as a threat,” the report said.

The Hong Kong Journalists Association’s relative distance from politics may have also insulated it thus far. Chan, the union’s head, said its leadership has been hardened by years of covering crackdowns and street protests.

The journalist’s group, which has fewer than 500 members, was founded in 1968 to help media workers organize and to promote press freedom. This year it has grown increasingly focused on helping unemployed journalists, including providing spending vouchers to former Apple Daily employees.

As China has strengthened control over Hong Kong through varieties of laws including the draconian National Security Law, the people of the semi-autonomous city are facing increasing policing and crackdown.

Beijing imposed a national security law on June 30 last year as a response to widespread anti-government protests in 2019.

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