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Far East Economic Review   2002/10/10

HK Journalists Fear Laws Will Restrain





Hong Kong's journalists fear that the proposed

security laws pose a serious threat to freedom of

expression, with the mere enactment of the new

measures encouraging media self-censorship.


"That in effect would dampen expression of views and

could damage Hong Kong's status as an international

media centre," the Hong Kong Journalists Association

said in a September 24 statement. "Secession and

subversion are not considered crimes in Hong Kong and

other common-law jurisdictions. The introduction of

these new concepts would adversely affect freedom of

expression," it added.


One reason for sensitivity to the new measures among

local journalists is that many believe that, under

pressure from Beijing, the city's freewheeling media

is already toning down its criticism of the mainland

government and its policies.


They argue that the implied threat from tougher laws

can only make things worse. However, Hong Kong's solicitor-

general, Bob Allcock, insists these fears are groundless.


"If the proposals are enacted, freedom of expression

will continue to be fully enjoyed in Hong Kong," he

told the South China Morning Post newspaper in

defending the government's proposals.


Under the proposed sedition laws, the expression of

views and commentaries, or reports on the views of

others or events, would not be treated as crimes

unless they were intended to incite others to threaten

national security through the use of force or other

unlawful means.


"Mere expression of views is not an offence," Hong

Kong's Secretary for Security Regina Ip told reporters

at a September 24 briefing. "We need to study the

intention. It depends on if one intends to incite

others to do something that will endanger national



Despite these assurances, journalists and civil

libertarians remain sceptical and have called on the

government to reconsider its proposed changes.