The Hong Kong Foreign Correspondents' Club is seen on November 5, 2021. The club recently released a survey showing unease and fear among foreign correspondents in the special administrative region. (AP/Kin Cheung)

Hong Kong FCC survey shows journalists concerned about possible arrest and prosecution

A significant majority of journalists in Hong Kong are concerned about the possibility of arrest or prosecution due to their work, according to a survey recently published by the Hong Kong Foreign Correspondents’ Club (FCC).

The survey, based on responses from 70 correspondents for foreign media and 29 for local news organizations, about 25% of the FCC’s membership, showed that 83.8% of respondents believed the working environment had worsened for journalists in Hong Kong. About 34% of the respondents were considering leaving Hong Kong because of press freedom concerns, and 12% said they already planned their exit.

“These results clearly show that assurances that Hong Kong still enjoys press freedom, guaranteed under the Basic Law, are not enough,” FCC President Keith Richburg said in a statement. “More steps need to be taken to restore confidence among journalists and to make sure Hong Kong maintains its decades-long reputation as a welcoming place for the international media.”

Since the promulgation of the national security law in June 2020, 61% of survey respondents said they were “slightly concerned” about the possibility of being arrested or prosecuted for their work, and 10% said they were “very concerned.”

The possible introduction of a so-called fake news law was also a noted worry among respondents, with 76% saying they were “very concerned” about such a law.

“I’ve published extensively and it’s out there on the net. But with laws constantly changing and applying to old works and deeds, if someone needs a flimsy excuse to ‘get me,’ they’ll probably pull up some old work that was acceptable debate/opinion when it was published and now an excuse to prosecute,” said respondent, whom the FCC did not identify.

In response to the survey, the Chinese Foreign Ministry’s Hong Kong office issued a statement warning the FCC to “stop sowing discord and refrain from interfering with the law-based governance of the [Hong Kong Special Administrative Region] government and Hong Kong’s rule of law in the name of press freedom.”

Read the full survey here.