Chairperson Report, February 2008

      In February, we were most delighted that Ching Cheong was released on parole before Lunar New Year, just in time for his long-awaited family reunion. Having settled down for two weeks, Ching Cheong picked the auspicious Chinese Valentine’s Day to have a tea gathering with the press.

      I was there among a crowd of over a hundred people at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club where Ching Cheong was accompanied by his wife, his brother and sister. Dressed in a red cardigan and a red tie, Ching Cheong lost some weight but still looked very bright and smart. I am sure many of you were aware of the speech from Ching Cheong and it was not necessary to bring up the details again. But I must stress, Ching Cheong is a real gentleman who speaks candidly from the bottom of his heart.

      When the tea gathering was over, there were still unanswered questions such as whether Ching Cheong would write about his encounter of the incarceration, whether he would go back to Singapore or step on the soil of mainland again. For me I found it was already good enough for him to back home safe. His wife Mary Lau cited an old Chinese saying “peace was worth a thousand pieces of gold”.

      The naked pictures incident that swept through the city also triggered a series of discussions. There were heated debates as to how the media handled the news, the images of artists, the moral values of our society, the internet world, the way police handled the case and even exchanges of opinions on the Control of Obscene and Indecent Articles Ordinance. We respect that media organizations would formulate their own market positioning for their audiences but I believe journalists of different positions would be stimulated to go into deeper thoughts and learn more from the whole incident.

      The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) Asia-Pacific called for a two-day regional meeting in Kuala Lumpur on February 2nd. Representatives from IFJ affiliates, including our Executive Committee member Mr Jackie Sam and our General Secretary Miss Mak Yin Ting, pledged to work together to enhance cooperation, fighting for the rights of journalists and  improving press freedom across the region. The representatives also expressed concerns over the political turmoil within the region such as the Pakistan situation and the circumstances of the journalists. HKJA would continue working closely with IFJ and give our full support.

      I also attended the press conference of the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) on February 4th for its annual report launch. According to the report “ Attacks on the Press in 2007”, 65 journalists were killed last year in direct connection to their work, up from 56 in 2006, making it the deadliest year for the press in a decade. They are still investigating another 23 deaths to determine whether they were work-related. I found the annual report with 351 pages so heavy, reminding me of someone saying “there is no news that is worth a life”. But in the real world, journalists are on risky assignments.

      Talking about risky tasks, I have been following Cable TV cameraman Mr Chow Kwong Yu’s case. The man convicted of assault on Mr Chow on December 6, 2007 was sentenced to serve 200 hours of community service on February 22nd. I thought the sentence was too lenient, but considered the man was already kept in custody for 20 days awaiting sentence. Chow Kwong Yu told me besides having seven stitches on the wound of his head, his neck was also hurt. He is still under physiotherapy treatment and has not been able to resume duty. Chow plans to seek compensation through civil prosecution.

      The closing date for the annual Human Rights Press Awards co-organized by the Amnesty International Hong Kong, the Foreign Correspondents’ Club Hong Kong (FCC) and HKJA has closed. This year we received more than 180 nominations which had been handed round to the panel of judges in early February. We expect to make announcement of the results in March 29th (Saturday), please mark it in your calendar.

      As for members’ activities, originally we were planning a four-day study trip to Taiwan for reporters on February 20th for a presidential election in March. Two candidates who agreed to meet with the HKJA delegation suddenly withdrew their commitment. We therefore have to cancel the trip regretfully.

      We have however organized another activity on February 26th for those reporters who cover news of the mainland and across the straits. We invited political commentator Mr Johnny Yui Siu. Lau to talk to 10 reporters at a lunch gathering to share his experience and views. I hope those who attended would found it constructive. HKJA will hold similar gatherings in future and we need your support.

Fan Ho Tsai 

Chairperson Report, March 2008
Chairperson Report, January 2008