Journalists from Ming Pao hold up front pages of the paper to protest an attack on their former chief editor, Kevin Lau Chun-to. (Reuters/Bobby Yip)

Journalists in Hong Kong and China: see our security guide

By Bob Dietz/CPJ Asia Program Coordinator on February 27, 2014 1:08 PM ET

CPJ's Journalist Security Guide is now available in Chinese (PDF). The guide has been available in other languages for more than a year but, frankly, we didn't see a Chinese version as a priority. Last year, after a university professor in China asked if he could translate some sections for his class, we began working on a Chinese version in simplified characters. We felt it was our responsibility to take care of the task ourselves. 

The Chinese version has been up for a few days, but now, in the wake of Wednesday's attack on former Ming Pao editor Kevin Lau Chun-to in Hong Kong, seems a good time to draw attention to it. The motivation for Lau's motorcycle-riding assailant to go after him with a meat cleaver in broad daylight is not clear, but the incident does not appear to be unplanned. There are several sections of the guide that deal with being aware of one's surroundings, varying one's routes (Lau was apparently attacked outside his regular morning restaurant stop), and responding to threats--though there have been no reports of threats directed toward Lau. There is also a valuable section on information security, and for Hong Kong journalists working under ever-closer scrutiny, it is a useful resource.

Lau's case is significant because it is a relatively rare event in Hong Kong, though there has been an uptick lately. In China proper, we have logged a few cases of murdered journalists who might or might not have been killed because of their work. Reporters on the mainland do face harassment and very often outright assault from local police and thugs, and even foreign journalists have been roughed up at times.

Of course, it is wrong to think of Hong Kong, Macau, or the rest of China as a combat zone on par with, say, Syria or Afghanistan. But threats to journalist security come in more than one form.  The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, which had partnered with Ming Pao on an investigation into offshore holdings of Chinese elites, said it was not aware of any evidence linking the attack on Lau to Ming Pao's reporting partnership with ICIJ. However, the group added: "Such speculation ... does reflect the real concern and anxiety felt by many in the Hong Kong press corps over continuing threats to press freedom."  Some Ming Pao staff, according to a report by the South China Morning Post, today expressed feeling scared when motorcycles came near.



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