Hong Kong journalists take to streets for press freedom

Journalists' union says 6,000 joined rally to urge chief executive to protect their independence

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 23 February, 2014, 4:50pm
UPDATED : Monday, 24 February, 2014, 11:00am

Watch: Protestors march for press freedom in Hong Kong

Leaving behind their pens and voice recorders, journalists switched roles yesterday to march in defence of press freedom.

The "Free Speech, Free Hong Kong" protest was organised by the Hong Kong Journalists Association, which said 6,000 took part. Police put the figure at 1,600.

"Such a big number of people illustrates that the public has started to feel that press freedom is at risk," association chairwoman Sham Yee-lan said.

The association claims recent events threaten freedom of the press and speech in the city.

It says these include the dismissal of Commercial Radio host Li Wei-ling, an outspoken critic of the government; claims by Chinese-language newspapers Apple Daily and AM730 that mainland-backed firms and banks had pulled advertisements because of their editorial stances; and Ming Pao management's decision to assign a Malaysian to take up a senior post as principal executive editor at the paper.

Nick Kwok Hing-fai, a photojournalist at Ming Pao who took his two-year-old daughter on the march, said he came because of the next generation. "I'm afraid my daughter will grow up regarding the June 4 incident as only a riot," he said. "If we don't tell the truth now, there will be nothing we can say tomorrow."

Protesters marched from Chater Garden to the Chief Executive's Office in Admiralty, where they rallied to urge Leung Chun-ying to uphold free speech.

Among those marching were former civil service chief Joseph Wong Wing-ping, former legislator Margaret Ng Ngoi-yee, Foreign Correspondents' Club representatives, and survivors of the Manila hostage shootings and Lamma Island ferry disaster.

"Without freedom of speech, victims like us would have no means to fight for justice," a woman whose son died in the ferry tragedy said on stage.

Emmanuel Cheng, who emigrated to Toronto in 1971, said the situation in his old hometown had greatly deteriorated. "I don't want to see Hong Kong turning into Shenzhen," he said.

Meanwhile, 80 people attended a forum organised by the Council on Media Conduct Supervision - formed by three pro-government groups - to "explore the conduct of Hong Kong media".

Leticia Lee See-yin, convenor of Justice Alliance, denied the forum at the piazza of the government headquarters was organised to counter the main rally.

A government spokesman said it "would not and could not interfere with" editorial freedom and free speech.