The Foreign Correspondents' Club (FCC), Hong Kong is concerned about the recent examples of delays involving the issuing of visas to foreign journalists in Hong Kong.
Not only does FCC opposes using journalists’ visas as a weapon in international disputes, but it also calls on the Trump administration to lift its restrictions on Chinese media working in the U.S and China’s governments to refrain from retribution in targeting U.S. media and journalists working in Hong Kong.
“Hong Kong thrives on the free flow of information,” the FCC statement read. ”Its role as a global financial hub depends on its reputation as an international centre that respects media freedom, eschews censorship and where the population has unfettered access to news and information.
“Restricting journalists in Hong Kong by reducing their numbers and interfering with their ability to report freely will damage Hong Kong’s international standing and reputation.”
In the statement, FCC quoted Hu Xijin, the editor of China’s state-owned Global Times newspaper, has suggested hundreds of American journalists based in Hong Kong will be targeted in retaliation for the Trump administration’s actions against Chinese journalists in the U.S.
On Tuesday, Wang Wenbin, a spokesman for the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs warned of “necessary and timely countermeasures” in response to “the unreasonable suppression of Chinese media outlets in the U.S.”
FCC, which was founded in 1943, stresses the delays, which have affected journalists of multiple nationalities and in some cases have prevented journalists from working, are highly unusual for Hong Kong, a city with historically robust press protections.
Furthermore, FCC considers it unfair and self-defeating for China to hold journalists responsible for the actions of the U.S. government. It also condemns the restrictions placed on Chinese journalists in the U.S., who are being singled out unjustifiably for punitive treatment by the Trump administration.
As such, FCC has urged the Hong Kong government to clarify the impact of the new national security law on journalists working in the city, and has asked the government to guarantee, among other things, that journalists will be free to continue their work without intimidation or obstruction. So far, Hong Kong authorities have not provided such clarity or guarantees.
“This downward spiral of retaliatory actions aimed at journalists helps no one, not least of all the public that needs accurate, professionally produced information now more than ever,” FCC said.
On August 3, Global Times editor Hu Xijin said United Stated expelled over 60 Chinese journalists and shortened their visa to three months. They are forced to leave the United States because they are quite unlikely to get extended their visas. Before the August 6 deadline, none of the 40 plus reporters have yet to receive their approval for visa extension.
Hu reckoned the US government suppression “had continuously broken the lower limit of their recognition” and stated that Beijing would not sit down and do nothing and there would be appropriate reaction.
He said many American journalists have been living in China for many years, and there are a few hundred American journalists in Hong Kong. Should the Sino-American media war escalate, it is clear who should be affected.
Wang Wenbin, a spokesman for the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the United States should be responsible for the current plight, stressing it should correct the mistakes and stopped supressing the Chinese media and journalist.
If United States decides to go its way, Wang said “that will make another mistake that China will be forced to retaliate and protect its own rights.”
The United States and Chinese journalists has become bargaining chips between the two states in the wake of their tense relations. In February, the Senate deemed five official mouthpieces including Xinhua Agency as Foreign Mission to be regulated by the “Foreign Mission Act.
In June, it enlarged the mission list to include CCTV, China News Service, Peoples’ Daily and Global Times. Earlier, the United States Department of Homeland Security shortened the visa for US-based Chinese journalists to 90 days with visa renewal option.
On March 17, China expelled China-based American journalists in New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Washington Post, restricting them to submit the name list to the Foreign Ministry press office and returned their journalist passes and vowed not to report in China, including Hong Kong and Macau.
The expel list includes New York Times senior correspondent Chris Buckley. Edward Yau Tang-wah, the Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development of Hong Kong, declined to respond if Hong Kong would follow Beijing order but state the government will handle by the “One Country, Two Systems” principle.
In mid-July, Chris Buckley’s visa was not renewed, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. No reason was given. The committee criticised the Hong Kong government for violating its commitment to protect press freedom.
After the passing of national security law, New York Times said it would move its digital news business, which accounted for one-third of its Hong Kong newsroom, to South Korea. New York Times said the implementation of national security law brought uncertainty to its news production.