China’s efforts undermine media freedom in Hong Kong and Taiwan

December 16, 2019 12:01 AM ET

New York, December 16, 2019—Press freedoms in Hong Kong and Taiwan are under severe strain from mainland China’s pressure and influence, the Committee to Protect Journalists finds in its new report, “One Country, One Censor.”

China’s efforts to sway editorial content and manipulate public opinion threaten the civil liberties that have been a hallmark of both Hong Kong and Taiwan, says the report, written by CPJ Asia Program Coordinator Steven Butler with research and reporting by CPJ China Correspondent Iris Hsu. Beijing’s distinct tactics in the two places provide insight into how China exports censorship elsewhere in the world—and perhaps, how to resist.

“The era of total censorship that Xi Jinping has ushered into China after becoming president in 2013 increasingly threatens to undermine the press freedoms enjoyed in both Hong Kong and Taiwan,” Butler said. “China-influenced publications and broadcast channels have come to dominate the media scene in Hong Kong while a scrappy, underfunded independent sector battles for audience and revenue. Meanwhile, Taiwan struggles to stay open and free in the face of a powerful adversary that won't hesitate to use technology or money to manipulate the media.”

In Hong Kong, pressure from Beijing has gradually squeezed the once-freewheeling local press, with mainland interests dominating commercial media. Meanwhile as anti-government protests continue, police have repeatedly attacked reporters without consequence. Local journalists are worried that Beijing will retaliate for their critical reporting by blocking them from the mainland, while international reporters fear their permission to stay in Hong Kong could be revoked. Journalists also expressed concern for digital security and for the future of internet freedom.

Taiwan is struggling to cope with China’s use of commercial influence and to grapple with a deluge of disinformation aimed at manipulating public opinion as elections near. Some of the response could potentially undermine the openness that Taipei is trying to protect.

China is notorious for its sophisticated censorship and information control, which CPJ has documented extensively. According to CPJ’s 2019 prison census there were at least 48 behind bars, more than in any other nation. CPJ has advocated on behalf of imprisoned journalists with the #FreeThePress campaign, by sending messages of support to imprisoned journalist Ding Lingjie, and through the One Free Press Coalition, which highlights journalists under threat around the world.

The report includes recommendations to Hong Kong, Taiwanese, and Chinese authorities.

For journalists seeking safety advice, resources, safety advisories, and safety kits are available on our website.

Note to Editors:

“One Country, One Censor” is available on CPJ's website. For questions or to arrange an interview with CPJ experts, email [email protected]. A Chinese translation of the report will be available on cpj.org in January 2020.

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CPJ is an independent, nonprofit organization that works to safeguard press freedom worldwide.

Media contacts:

Bebe Santa-Wood

Communications Associate

[email protected]

212-300-9032

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