Freedom of the Press in Hong Kong (closed)

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Recently, the issue of freedom of the press has in the spotlight in Hong Kong. Last Sunday there was a protest march by journalists calling for press freedom and condemning censorship (Hong Kong journalists take to streets for press freedom). Three days later, a former editor of Ming Pao, Kevin Lau Chun-to (whose recent dismissal was one of the events leading to the protest), was slashed by an unknown assailant and is now hospitalized and in critical condition (Hong Kong Editor Whose Ouster Stirred Protests Is Slashed.

There are a few questions to consider:

1. The Role of the Press

What exactly is the role of the press in Hong Kong?

Traditionally in western-style democracy, the press has two related roles:

  • It keeps citizens informed and educated about their community and about the world around so that they may make better decisions and so that they can better carry out their civic duties.
  • It acts as a watchdog to prevent the government (or other powerful parties) from abusing power.

In order to fulfill these two roles properly the press needs to be largely free from control. No one is saying that the press in Western democracies is perfect or free from control, but there is a clear view of what its ideal role.

This is not the only view of the role of the press, however, For example the central government of China (as well as many other governments in the world) views the main functions of the press as:

  • Assisting the government in promoting social stability and harmony
  • Disseminating information on behalf of the government

According to the president of CCTV, the mainland news broadcasterL ”The first social responsibility and professional ethic of media staff should be understanding their role clearly and being a good [government] mouthpiece. Journalists who think of themselves as professionals, instead of as propaganda workers, are making a fundamental mistake about identity.” (Pursuing Soft Power, China Puts Stamp on Africa’s News).

Should Hong Kong be following the western-democratic concept of the press, in which freedom is essential or should it follow the more government-friendly and government-controlled model followed by many other countries? Why?

2. Sources of Censorship

Is the press freedom in Hong Kong being undermined by censorship from the Central Government by censorship from the Hong Kong government and/or by self-censorship?

3. Taking Action

If you think a free press is important, what can you do to protect and promote it? if you think the press should focus on promoting social stability and harmony on behalf of the government, how can you persuade others that freedom of the press is not important?

4. Criminal Acts

Who do you think is behind the recent attacks on journalists and what do you think their motives are?

We look forward to reading your opinions.



  1. Freedom of press refers to the freedom of interviewing, reporting, distribution and pubication of mass media. The mass media ( eg. Newspaper and television stations ) can be able to report different kinds of social affairs objectively with the freedom of press. It’s very important as it acts as a bridge of communication between government and citizens. By reflecting opinions of individuals , organizations and even the government, the quality of people’s non-material life can be improved.

    I think the press in Hong Kong adopts self-censorship. According to a recent survey of the Hong Kong Journalists Association, it is found that more journalists are practising self-censorship. Actually this causes harmful effects to the freedom of press. When journalists have to express ideas that have been edited again and again, people won’t be able to get the real ideas of the political affairs. As a result, the government would do nothing to carry out better and more satisfying policies since nobody is pointing out its shortcomings through different means of mass media.

    The news that a former editor have been attacked by someone on a street was really heart-shocking. There is a great chance that the muderer was instigated by the mainland government. The reason behind may be threatening journalists in Hong Kong and asking them to tell less about the black marks of the mainland government. It’s really inhumane and unreasonable to do so, since it would only create deeper conflicts.

    I believe that many people feel that the mainland government is tightening the control over Hong Kong recently, including the freedom of press In order to protect our valuable freedom, we must stand up bravely and voice out our opinions. As a student, we can still constribute in protecting the freedom by several ways. We can write letters to editors and express our feelings towards the mainland governement’s rein in Hong Kong press. Besides, we can participate in protests which are held by journalists. Of course,we will be able to do more when we have grown up.

  2. Recently, the threat to freedom of press in Hong Kong has been a highly concerned topic among local citizens. While accidents against two media workers happened one after another shortly within a month, more than just wearing the blue silk ribbon distributed in our school these days for fun only, but also we might want to think more in-depth, about the original aspirations, the possible truth behind and the future development of the media industry in Hong Kong.
    Being a colonial region of Britain in 99-year time, Hong Kong has definitely inherited some of the desirable political and economic system as well as a free and transparent media industry. Media workers have been granted an absolutely high degree of freedom so as to enhance the independence of them. As long as it does not jeopardize the rights enjoyed by the other Hong Kong residents, journalists are free to publish any topic they feel like, ranging from commercial goods to political taboos.
    These were introduced to allow the media work as an educational and monitoring body in the society so that local citizens’ rights to know and rights to deliver speech can be well protected. It would be extremely peaceful if all of us work just well in our own place. However, imagine if the authority of the media becomes too large and they suddenly become uncontrollable, then how can we check and balance them? While some of the ordinary citizens usually believe in whatever the media tell them, they may not be able to distinguish clearly between right and wrong. Despite the political factors, publishing biased, misleading, unreliable and inappropriate contents could bring unimaginably great problems. Indeed, something like this had happened before for several times, at which a medium reported wrongly or provided insufficient information to the public. This indicates that of course we ought to retain good traditions left by our ancestors, but in the meantime, we should also consider seriously that whether we are accepting any claim by any media or carefully choosing to do what it really deserves. I would also like to remind you that only if they carry their duties responsibly, the media are able to enjoy the rights given to them. High tolerance doesn’t mean the allowance of everything, before posting an article, the media worker might want to check whether it is reasonable and appropriate to publish it.
    The 2 incidents were seemingly done by pro-Central government people, declared the victims, however, I did not really believe in the so-called facts revealed to the public by them because for me, they were only trying to shift all responsibilities to the HKSAR government, blaming it for its incompetence entirely. Liu’s accident may be done by some shameful rude impulsive and hateful people, however, how can we know that it’s not done by Liu’s intimate fellows surrounding him because of personal affairs? How can we shift the sole and whole responsibilities to the government completely without accurate evidences? It is even more doubtful for DJ Lee Wai-Ling’s case. In fact, she has been transferred to several different working projects these days, and this is believed to due to the private conflicts between her superior supervisor Stephen C.W. Chan and her, as reported in news years ago. In contrast, the dismissal of Lee is now blamed on the chief executive again with her suspicions only and relatively irrelevant inferences. As the media emphasized Lee’s and Lau’s words continuously to the public, we chose to trust them immediately afterwards without any supporting evidences. Isn’t that too rash and careless way of analyzing the data we obtained from the media? Of course there are still possibilities for their statements to be true, nevertheless, before getting sufficient reliable resources, I would strongly suggest you not to respond to the demonstrations campaigns so soon because you don’t even exactly know which one offers you the real explanations.
    With increasing scandals in media industry, there’s no doubt that Hong Kong’s ranking in freedom of speech will receive generally a drop in the few years. More discontented citizens have shown up on the streets to fight back and preserve our reputations, while some starts their own censorship in publishing. Will the transparency of the media drop? Will we lose our freedom of publishing and expressing? Will the different parties and political camps become deeply involved that it finally turns out to be a political argument? Will there be any economic loss? Probably. Instead what I am sure about is that as a Hong Kong resident, we have the duty to concern about things happening nearby and evaluate ourselves as well as the society. Starting from the age of becoming teenager, we do not only need to thinks about our own benefits, but we are expected to think about the whole society’s interest. The future is in our hands, living in a better environment or not, it really depends on us!

  3. Hong Kong was once among the top cities that enjoy a high degree of freedom of press in the world. However, with more and more scandals related to the freedom of press being disclosed, the ranking of Hong Kong concerning this topic has dropped significantly to the lowest in history. What do the scandals reflect? Is Hong Kong facing a crisis that the freedom of press is being compressed?

    In fact, freedom of press is a right which citizens could enjoy to express their opinions or feelings towards different issues. In February 2014, DJ Lee Wai-ling was dismissed ‘’with no reason’, according to Lee. However, the reason of the dismissal was believed to be her speech and stance was against the Hong Kong government. She described the dismissal as a ‘political action’ against journalists. In the past few months, the Commercial Radio of Hong Kong had failed to give a clear explanation towards the dismissal of Lee. The dismissal had raised public concerns towards the freedom of speech. In the same month, the chief editor of Ming Pao, Kevin Lau Chun-to was slashed by an unknown assailant and was severely injured. He once had the risk to death, and now he is in a better condition. It is another serious case that the reason of assassination was believed to be the stance of the newspaper, which is against the Hong Kong government and even the Mainland China, it was an action taken by the officials to stop the release of articles which are against them.

    Both incidents were highly related to the freedom of press in Hong Kong. In my opinion, I believe that both victims were facing the ‘political terror’ that they were warned not to release information which is against the government to the public. In fact, these incidents have already damaged one of the major core values in Hong Kong, which is the freedom of press. From their occupation, it’s a matter of fact that their incidents were contrived. We, the Hong Kong citizens, are uncertain and fear if there are any similar incidents from happening, but no matter what, the people will definitely make an all-out effort to defend the freedom of speech in Hong Kong, with determination and no shrink back.

  4. Having freedom of speech is essential for a society. Irrespective of their races, all people should enjoy freedom of speech. If there is a lack of freedom of speech, reporters cannot report events from the view of the fact, but are forced to act and write the news according to a way that the government or a political party like. Places where freedom of press is presented, all citizens from the country can enjoy the freedom of voicing out their opinions freely without disturbed by the government. Their voices will be accepted and demonstrations against the attitude of the government will not be suppressed.
    Nowadays, the level of freedom of press in Hong Kong has declined. Take Kevin Lau Chun-to, the former editor of Ming Pao, as an example. It is believed that his dismissal is due to political reason. This is one of the events leading to protest. If Hong Kong citizens do nothing about it and let the situaiton to get worse, we will enjoy less freedom of press in the future and maybe we will lose one of our most important assets someday. Therefore, we need to protect our freedom of press from being suppressed by the government.

  5. Everyone has their freedom of speech since you are born, no matter what gender, political views, occupation…But someone is trying to control our feelings, thinking, action–in order to frighten us.
    Mass media are very important. They collect data carefully, even though these data are extremely sensitive and highly private and confidential. They still tell us without any revise. It is an independent organization and speak to the unfair people.
    But when Kevin Lau Chun-to was injured, some report may afraid that he/she will be the next target. And they may not announce to the public. We should be aware now…

  6. Freedom of press is usually followed by freedom of speech. They coexist in Hong Kong. Therefore, the fall of the previous one will eventually bring the second one down together. Consider freedom of speech, it is very valuable(as we know some places such as North Korea, China don’t allow this) to Hong Kongers. Hence, it’s time for Hong Kongers to reflect on the freedom we suppose to own well.
    The Kelvin Lau case, however, may be just a special one, whereas the problem may have arisen——-Are we deteriorating the freedom gradually? Is the society starting to change?

  7. As Hong Kong is an open society,I think the citizens can express their opinions freely.Freedom of press is one of the important core values of Hong Kong.Journalists can report the shortcomings of the government or the society so that we can know more about our society.I really agree that mass media can act as a watchdog to prevent abuses of power of the government or other parties.
    I feel upset and shock when I know that such attack of journalist happened in Hong Kong.To me,I don’t know whether the incident is related to the press freedom.However, I think that the safety of our lives is being threatened as the attack of the assailant is so fast and serious.Hope that Hong Kong police can find out the unknown assailant very soon.

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