On April 3rd, human rights activist on the mainland, Hu Jia, was jailed for three and a half years for allegedly inciting the subversion of the state authority. The 34 year-old was charged for the interviews he gave to the foreign media and political articles he wrote and published on the internet.
The Hong Kong Journalists Association found the ruling groundless. I read Mr Hu’s articles, many of which are reports on mainland human rights activists. There is an article about Hong Kong’s “One country, two systems.” These articles are nothing more than personal opinion, and it is hard to relate them to subverting state authority.
Press freedom is a basic human right protected by the Constitution of the Peoples Republic of China. Our association is angered by the conviction and jailing of Mr Hu .
We organized a seminar on April 13th with International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), inviting a few scholars and media practitioners to share their insights. One person asked if Mr Hu was charged for agreeing to interviews, would that trigger more self-censorship among journalists. One panel member professor Ong Yew Kim replied that fighting for justice was journalists’ privilege for life, so we should insist on press freedom based on the rule of law.
We organized a signature campaign for Mr Hu along with IFJ, pressing for his early release. I hope you would support our action.
On April 18th and 19th, six international bodies gathered for a two-day seminar in Paris, discussing the Beijing Olympics and Press Freedom. I was lucky to be among the 30 different news practitioners, writers and human rights activists. Among the six group discussions were topics about how China control news dissemination, China’s internet development and how China treats foreign media. Through such discussion and concern we hoped China’s human rights situation and press freedom would be improved.
Many speakers raised their concerns about Mr Hu Jia’s imprisonment, and the plight of other mainland human rights activists. So this trip not only facilitated the communications between HKJA and other bodies, but it was also a valuable experience for me.
April 30th was the 100 days countdown to Beijing Olympics and May 3rd was the World Press Freedom Day. HKJA along with seven other international and local freedom of expression advocate groups launched a two-day seminar and an arts fair to mark the occasion. Our slogan, just like the Beijing Olympics, is “One Dream – Free Expression in China”.
On April 30th, we held a press conference to announce our Olympics-related activities. Unfortunately one of our guests could not get entry into Hong Kong, and was asked to return to the origin country by the Immigration Department. Other two cultural figures from mainland were advised not to come or forbidden to leave the country.
Mr Zhang Yu, the Coordinator of Writer in Prison Committee of Independent Chinese PEN Centre, came all the way from Sweden, was supposed to be the moderator of our seminars here, but was questioned by the Immigration Department before repatriation. The SAR government did not explain why.
Here is my thought: what possible downside could Mr Zhang bring to Hong Kong? Under the “one country, two systems”, we are protected by the freedom of speech. As such, we are the backyard for supporting more press freedom and better human rights in China. Hong Kong people always respect freedom of expression and basic human rights, and this is what I exactly like about Hong Kong. But now ten years since returning to China, why can’t the Hong Kong government tolerate more different voices? This is clearly a regression of press freedom.
On that day of the press conference, we left a seat out of respect for Mr Zhang. We also tied white towels on our mouths, protesting for the lack of press freedom. We sent a letter to the Government of the Hong Kong SAR to express our disappointment and to the International Olympics Committee to express our concern.
Joint convener of our China Concern Subcommittee, Mr Don Gasper, joined an IFJ’s nine-member delegation to Beijing on April 13th to learn more about the mainland reporters’ working condition, and how Beijing is to host over hundreds of thousands of overseas media outlets.
The delegation met with members of the All-China Journalists Association. They also exchanged views with the Chinese government officials, mainland media outlets, correspondents and local journalism students.
Fan Ho Tsai