Fact and Friction: Reporting on Hong Kong’s Protests
Mass protests in Hong Kong put a team of journalists to test as they face intimidation and growing pressure from China.
In June 2019, a controversial new extradition bill in Hong Kong – which would allow people to be sent to mainland China for trial – sparked mass protests, with millions of citizens taking to the streets.
But as China is seen to flex more influence over the semi-autonomous territory, Hong Kong’s media also face pressure.
Among those covering the protests is Hong Kong Free Press (HKFP), an independent news outlet whose journalists put themselves on the line to cover the story – running a news website and streaming events on social media as they navigate clashes between protesters and police and keep up with the latest developments.
But they are up against an increasingly murky media landscape; HKFP’s founder Tom Grundy believes press freedoms have eroded since 1997 when Hong Kong was handed over to Chinese rule from Britain.
“The big problem when it comes to truth and accuracy is, they [news outlets] tend to be either outright owned by China or they’re run by tycoons with business interests in the mainland. Almost everybody it seems is touched by if not outright censorship, but self-censorship. And that’s the cancerous thing that has been spreading in Hong Kong for some years,” says Grundy.
And as advertisers withdraw from media critical of the establishment and the government increases control of all media, journalists in Hong Kong operate in a period of intimidation and uncertainty.
Still, the team is determined to maintain its independence in the face of biased media.
“I felt that it’s right that journalists reporting on Hong Kong should have a very deep engagement in the fate of Hong Kong,” says Holmes Chan, an HKFP reporter.
“I hope that people can see that we care.”