Country Summary

Concerns about China’s assumption of sovereignty over the colony, which will be transferred from Britain in July 1997, dominated Hong Kong’s press freedom debates. As the year progressed, serious doubts arose over China’s commitment to the Basic Law of Hong Kong, a set of rules negotiated with Britain for the governing of Hong Kong after the handover. The Basic Law contains a guarantee of press freedom. Lu Ping, director of the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office of China’s State Council, announced in an interview with CNN in June that press freedom would be limited under Chinese rule. In particular, Lu said that the press would not be allowed to advocate two Chinas.

China’s treatment of journalists from Hong Kong and the domestic Chinese press compounded the anxieties of the Hong Kong media. The Chinese Public Security Bureau detained 25 journalists, many of them from Hong Kong, at the Beijing airport. The journalists were attempting to cover the arrival in Beijing of Hong Kong legislators. China’s Communist Party also cracked down on dissidents and began to exert more control over mainland publications in the name of a revival of Maoist ideology, sending an ominous warning to Hong Kong’s media about their prospects for press freedom in 1997.

The Hong Kong media also faced serious domestic problems. Assailants severed the left forearm of Leung Tin-wai, a veteran Hong Kong journalist, in an attack at his office two days before the scheduled debut of his new tabloid newspaper, Surprise Weekly. Local journalists speculated that the attack may have been organized by competitors or distributors. Organized crime groups are heavily involved in newspaper distribution.

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