Hong Kong’s press freedom score dropped four times in four consecutive years, said the Hong Kong Journalist’s Association Friday when releasing its Press Freedom Index for 2023. The index was created in 2013 and is calculated from ratings given by Hong Kong journalists and the general public. In 2018, Hong Kong’s press freedom score was 40.9, but its 2022 score was 25.7.
According to HKJA, the freedom of the press in Hong Kong experienced “dramatic deterioration since 2019”. This corresponds with the Hong Kong national security law that Beijing proposed in 2019 and passed in 2020. The broad scope of the national security law criminalized a wide range of dissent and established a new branch of Beijing law enforcement in the traditionally autonomous city. The legislation sparked massive protests and crackdowns by police.
Despite reassurances by Beijing that the national security law would protect the “one country, two systems” principle, officials reportedly used the law to target several prominent members of the Hong Kong press. According to HKJA, “Top executives and editors at newspaper Apple Daily and online media Stand News were charged under the Hong Kong National Security Law or with sedition. The two media organizations ceased operations in 2021.” The HKJA index found that journalist respondents expressed the most fear about criticizing the central government in China. A Hong Kong Foreign Correspondents’ Club survey found that “almost 70 [percent] of journalists in Hong Kong say they have self-censored in their own writing”.
China continues to escalate the national security law crack-down on Hong Kong dissidents. On Thursday, Chinese officials arrested a fifth person on suspicion for financially aiding Hong Kong activists abroad. They also issued arrest warrants for eight pro-democracy activists living abroad. International organizations, including the EU, criticized Beijing’s actions. Josep Borrell Fontelles, the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, said “The extra-territorial application of this law is only adding to our existing concerns.”