According to the Hong Kong Journalists’ Association (HKJA), at least 10 journalists working for local and international organizations have been denied coverage for “security reasons.”
“Because the media cannot send journalists to the field, the HKJA expresses its deepest regret at the harsh coverage conditions adopted by the authorities for such a major event,” the press group said on Tuesday.
According to the HKJA, Reuters, Agence France-Press (AFP) and the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post were among the outlets whose journalists were not allowed to cover the ceremonies.
CNN has contacted media companies for comment. A spokesman for the Hong Kong government said the authorities were “balancing as far as possible between the need for the media and security requirements.”
Reuters reported that two of its journalists were banned from covering the handover ceremony and the inauguration of Hong Kong’s new CEO John Lee. He quoted a Reuters spokesman as saying the news agency was asking for more information on the matter.
CNN’s application to attend the events was also rejected.
“The government told CNN that the police rejected the application but declined to go into details,” a company spokesman said. “CNN is disappointed not to attend official events but will continue to report on President Xi Jinping’s visit.”
The spokesman said the Hong Kong government told CNN it “will not comment on the results of accreditation of individual organizations and individuals.”
Journalists whose applications have been rejected will not be able to cover the national flag-raising ceremony and the swearing in of Lee, the city’s new leader and former security chief.
The State Department of Information Services sent out invitations to news organizations on June 16, allowing only one journalist per media outlet to cover each event.
Each member of the media was required to conduct daily PCR tests starting June 26 – until formal approval or rejection on June 28 – and quarantined at a hotel on June 29 as part of coronavirus-related prevention measures.
“Serious deviation” from freedom of the press
The Foreign Correspondents Club in Hong Kong said on Wednesday it was “deeply concerned” about reports of accreditation being denied.
“In the past, similar formal events have been open to media registration without an invitation or verification,” the FCC said in a statement Wednesday.
“The FCCHK considers these restrictions, imposed without detailed explanation, as a serious deviation from the stated commitment to freedom of the press,” the statement said.
Beijing introduced a national security law in the city after anti-government protests in 2019. Critics have since argued that some of the freedoms China promised to protect in the handover 25 years ago have been curtailed.
Hong Kong The government rejects suggestions that freedom of the press has been undermined, but the future of local independent journalists looks bleak. While major international media outlets, including CNN and Bloomberg, still operate major newsrooms in the city, there are few significant local independent media outlets left.
Some of the city’s largest pro-democracy media outlets were toppled after massive government pressure, a series of arrests and police raids on their newsrooms.
— CNN’s Beijing Bureau contributed to this report.