Chris Yeung, chief writer at Citizen News and former president of the Hong Kong Journalists Association, announces Citizen News will cease operations in January 2022. HKJA will hold a meeting on April 23, 2022, to discuss disbandment following the shut down of several news organizations. (Reuters/Tyrone Siu)

Hong Kong’s largest journalist association considers disbanding amid government investigation

Taipei, April 20, 2022 – Hong Kong authorities should stop persecuting, harassing, and jailing members of the press and ensure that journalists and journalist associations are able to do their jobs freely and safely, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Wednesday. 

On April 13, the Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA) informed its members that it would hold an “Extraordinary General Meeting” on Saturday, April 23, to discuss the future of the group, according to news reports

Ronson Chan Ronsing, the association’s chairman, told the South China Morning Post that the HKJA, which reported 486 members last year, is considering disbanding as some members are worried about their future after the arrest of veteran journalist Allan Au Ka-lun last week and the closing of several outlets in recent months, including the pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily and non-profit news websites Stand News, and Citizen News.

“Any decision by the Hong Kong Journalists Association to disband would mark a sad day for press freedom in the Chinese-controlled territory, which has seen a progressive assault on independent journalism in recent years,” said Steven Butler, CPJ’s Asia program coordinator, in Washington, D.C. “The HKJA has for years provided a strong voice to support Hong Kong’s once-thriving community of journalists and its voice would be sorely missed.”

HKJA, a vocal advocate for the city’s press freedom, has come under attacks from authorities and pro-Beijing press since early 2019, when journalists presented HKJA-issued press passes to police while covering the mass protests against a controversial bill allowing extradition to mainland China. Last September, when the Hong Kong police force amended one of its general orders to allow police to decide for themselves whether someone was an accredited journalist, the HKJA was among the press associations that publicly condemned the action.

In January, the Registry of Trade Unions, a government body regulating labor unions in the city, launched an investigation into HKJA and asked the group to provide information on its finances and past events, according to news reports. The registry’s Assistant Labor Officer Colin Leung told CPJ by email that the registry sent an email to HKJA requesting the group “provide information about its activities which are suspected to be inconsistent with the Trade unions ordinance and/or union rules,” Leung wrote. “As follow-up action is underway, RTU does not comment on individual cases.”  

CPJ emailed the Hong Kong police force for comment but did not immediately receive any reply.

CPJ’s 2021 prison census found that China remained the world’s worst jailer of journalists for the third year in a row. It was the first time that journalists in Hong Kong appeared on CPJ’s census.