Hong Kong enjoys a unique position in China with rule of law and freedom of speech enshrined in its mini-constitution. Media outlets based in the city therefore have an unrepresented opportunity to be Beijing’s ‘watchdogs’ and fulfil a role that would be impossible behind the Great Chinese Firewall where civil liberties are restricted. However, it appears that Hong Kong’s press have settled into a role of Beijing’s ‘lapdogs’ as opposed to ‘watchdogs’, with multiple reports lamenting the city’s declining journalistic freedom.
Today, Hong Kong fell three places in the Reporters Without Borders Press Freedom Index. We are now 61st – behind Burkina Faso, Moldova and Haiti. Also today, a scathing new analysis of Hong Kong’s ‘cancerous’ plague of self-censorship was published by the Committee to Protect Journalists in New York. As well as detailing physical attacks on journalists, it reveals how more than half of the city’s media owners have now accepted appointments to Beijing’s main political assemblies.
The CPJ states that media freedom is now at a “low point” with a 2013 HKU study showing that more than half of the public now believe the press self-censors.