Hong Kong Chief Executive-elect John Lee speaks during a news conference on May 9, 2022. At least 10 local and international news outlets were not granted access to cover Lee's inauguration and the anniversary of Hong Kong's handover to China. (Reuters/Tyrone Siu)

Hong Kong restricts access to chief executive inauguration and handover anniversary events

Taipei, June 16, 2022 — Hong Kong authorities should allow media outlets to freely cover the inauguration of Chief Executive-elect John Lee and the 25th anniversary of the territory’s handover to China, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Thursday.

On the evening of Thursday, June 16, applications closed for media outlets to seek access to cover ceremonies marking both events, scheduled for July 1; the Hong Kong Journalists Association trade group and the Hong Kong Free Press news website both reported that at least 10 domestic and local outlets were not invited or allowed to apply to cover the events.

The HKFP reported that many of those outlets regularly receive invitations to other Hong Kong government events, but the Information Services Department, the government’s primary communication agency, said only select media outlets had been invited to cover the July 1 events due to considerations including the COVID-19 pandemic, security requirements, and space restraints.

Hong Kong news website InMedia reported that, when it applied to cover the events, an Information Services Department official said “those who need invitations have already received theirs.”

“Hong Kong’s claims to honor press freedom should compel it to offer open access for media coverage of important events, such as the inauguration of John Lee as chief executive and the 25th anniversary of the handover,” said Steven Butler, CPJ’s Asia program coordinator, in Washington, D.C. “Barring some media outlets from freely covering such events severely undercuts the credibility of incoming Chief Executive Lee, who has repeatedly said that Hong Kong enjoys press freedom.”

The Information Services Department failed to invite or approve access for the Japanese outlets Nikkei, Asahi Shimbun, and Kyodo News; Taiwan’s CTV; the U.S. photo wire Getty Images; the Europe Pressphoto Agency; and Hong Kong’s InMedia, the Photographic Society of Hong Kong, Truth Media Hong Kong, and the HKFP, according to the HKFP’s report.

According to InMedia, the department asked news outlets to include photos and the personal information of the journalists who planned to attend in their applications.

In its statement, the Hong Kong Journalists Association called for authorities to be more inclusive by accepting media organizations’ applications to attend the events.

In an email sent to CPJ after the publication of this article, the Information Service Department called the government’s media arrangements “suitable” and cited the COVID-19 pandemic, security requirements, and venue constraints, saying those factors had impacted “the number of media organisations being invited to apply for accreditation.”