Concern over mounting violence against journalists in Hong Kong

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

His Excellency Zhang Junsai
Ambassador of the People's Republic of China to Canada
515 St. Patrick Street
Ottawa, ON K1N 5H3

March 11, 2014

Dear Ambassador,

I am writing on behalf of Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE), a non-profit, non-governmental organization that works to promote and protect press freedom and freedom of expression around the world.

CJFE adds its voice to the Hong Kong Journalists Association, International Federation of Journalists and the undersigned signatories to express our concern regarding the number of dangerous incidents in the media industry in Hong Kong that have escalated since July 2013, including the brutal attack with a cleaver on former Ming Pao chief editor Kevin Lau on 26 February 2014.We call on the Chief Executive of Hong Kong Leung Chun-Ying to take steps to protect freedom of expression and defend press freedoms.

The following incidents paint a concerning picture for press freedom in Hong Kong and indicate that media is being targeted, threatened and attacked from many fronts.

  • • June 2013: Bosses of three Hong Kong media companies were targeted in separate incidents. The heads of the two media groups Next Media and the free newspaper am730 both received death threats, while the head of e-magazine iSunaffairs suffered a personal attack. No related prosecutions have been made.
  • • August 2013: two photographers were verbally abused, obstructed and kicked by a retired policeman when they were trying to report on a scuffle at Mongkok, Hong Kong. However, a trial found the assailant not guilty.
  • • September 2013: the editor-in-chief of Hong Kong Economic Journal was accused of withdrawing an article which criticised the largest free-to-air television station for only broadcasting comments favourable to Hong Kong Chief Executive, Leung Chun-Ying.
  • • October 2013: Hong Kong Television Network (HKTV) was unsuccessful in its application for a free-to-air broadcast licence, despite the widespread view that it was well prepared to begin broadcasting.
  • • November 2013: Yao Wen-tian, a Hong Kong publisher, was detained in China after he agreed to publish a new book by prominent dissident writer Yu Jie.
  • • December 2013: Several mainland-backed companies abruptly ceased advertising in the free Hong Kong newspaper am730. This information is revealed by the owner and founder, Shih Wing-Ching, in February 2014.
  • • February 2014: Tiong Hiew King, a Malaysian press tycoon and Chairperson of Media Chinese International Ltd, decided to remove Kevin Lau Chun-To, editor-in-chief of Hong Kong's Ming Pao newspaper.
  • • February 2014: Li Wei-Ling, an outspoken veteran radio talk show host with Commercial Radio of Hong Kong, was sacked just three months after she was suddenly removed from her popular morning show.
  • • February 2014: Kevin Lau, recently-fired Ming Pao chief editor, was brutally attacked with a meat cleaver by an unidentified man in a motorcycle helmet.

Leung Chun-Ying has repeatedly claimed that he and his government place great importance on press freedom. According to Article 27 of the Basic Law, which functions as the constitution of Hong Kong, the territory's residents enjoy press freedom. In addition, Section 16 of the Hong Kong Bill of Rights Ordinance says that Hong Kong enjoys freedom of opinion and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights is in effect in Hong Kong by virtue of the Bill of Rights Ordinance and Article 39 of the Basic Law. Sadly, the Hong Kong government and the Chief Executive have not fully upheld these rights and Mr Leung has failed to honour the HKJA charter that he signed in 2012, namely to defend press freedom and play an active role in implementing a freedom of information law (See page 2 of the 2013 HKJA annual report).

We the undersigned call on Chief Executive Leung Chun-Ying to take immediate steps to protect freedom of expression and defend press freedoms in Hong Kong:

  • • We call on Chief Executive Leung Chun-Ying to make a public statement reaffirming the pledge that he made to the HKJA in 2012 that he will defend press freedom in Hong Kong.
  • • We call on Chief Executive Leung Chun-Ying to stand by his promise to enact Freedom of Information (FoI) legislation in Hong Kong as a matter of urgency.
  • • We call on Chief Executive Leung Chun-Ying to immediately ensure that the cases outlined in the IFJ catalogue of press freedom violations are thoroughly investigated and perpetrators brought to justice.

We thank you for your attention and I look forward to your reply.

Yours sincerely,
Arnold Amber, CJFE President

Hong Kong Journalists Association
International Federation of Journalists
Adil Soz - International Foundation for Protection of Freedom of Speech
Afghanistan Journalists Center
Aliansi Jurnalis Independen/Alliance of Independent Journalists
Association of Caribbean Media Workers
Canadian Journalists for Free Expression
Cartoonists Rights Network International
Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility
Center for Media Studies & Peace Building
Committee to Protect Journalists
Freedom Forum
Freedom House
Independent Journalism Center - Moldova
Index on Censorship
Initiative for Freedom of Expression - Turkey
Institute for the Studies on Free Flow of Information
International Press Institute
International Publishers Association
Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance
Media Watch
National Union of Somali Journalists
Pacific Islands News Association
Pakistan Press Foundation
Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms - MADA
PEN International
Reporters Without Borders
Southeast Asian Press Alliance
World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers
World Press Freedom Committee

All About Media (論盡媒體)
Alliance of the Guard of Canadian Values
All India Newspaper Employees Federation (AINEF)
Andhra Pradesh Journalists Union (APJU)
Association of Independent Electronic Media (ANEM)
Association of Taiwan Journalists
Canada-Hong Kong Link
Federation of Overseas Hong Kong Chinese, District of Columbia (FOHKC-DC) (華盛顿海外香港華人聯會)
Giang Dang, Center for Community Support and Development Studies (CECODES)
Hong Kong Forum, Los Angeles
Hong Kong In-Media
Independent Chinese Pen Center (獨立中文筆會)
The International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers' Associations (IUF)
ITUC/GUF Hong Kong Liaison Office (IHLO)
Juned Sonido,
Media Association Blong Vanuatu
Movement for Democracy in China (Calgary)
National Union of Journalist Malaysia (NUJM)
National Union of Journalists Peninsular Malaysia
Next Media Trade Union
New School for Democracy (華人民主書院)
New Zealand EPMU
The Norwegian Union of Journalists (Norsk Journalistlag)
Taiwan Society for Democracy (華人民主文化協會)
Toronto Association for Democracy in China
UNI Asia & Pacific
Vancouver Society in Support of Democratic Movement (VSSDM)

Cc: The Honourable John Baird, Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs
Mr. Ian Burchett, Consul General of Canada in Hong Kong and Macao