Press freedom in Hong Kong

Hongkongers more confident about press freedom and most satisfied with radio medium, HKU survey shows

More than half of poll respondents believed the media engaged in self-censorship

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 19 April, 2017, 7:56am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 19 April, 2017, 7:55am

The confidence that Hong Kong people have in the freedom of their city’s press has increased by 17 per cent compared with seven months ago, following the recent news barrage on social conflicts and coverage of the chief executive election, the University of Hong Kong has found in a latest survey.

The survey was conducted between April 10 and 12, when researchers interviewed 1,001 Hong Kong citizens by telephone.

The poll found that 55 per cent of respondents were happy with local press freedom, while 31 per cent said they were dissatisfied, meaning a net rate of satisfaction – or confidence – of 24 per cent, which was 17 per cent higher than in September last year.

Perception of Hong Kong press freedom improves slightly

However, about 51 per cent of interviewees believed that the local media conducted self-censorship, while about 30 per cent believed it did not.

About 58 per cent of respondents believed that Hong Kong’s news outlets had reservations about criticising the government in mainland China, while 33 per cent said otherwise.

Meanwhile about 49 per cent said local press were afraid to criticise the Hong Kong government, while 42 per cent did not believe so.

The survey also showed that citizens were most satisfied with the performance of local radio stations when it comes to news coverage, followed by television, online media and newspapers.

“As for the reasons affecting people’s appraisal of the press, they could have been influenced by the recent events that have happened,” Frank Lee Wai-kin, research manager of the university’s public opinion programme, said.

The university cited a series of controversies reported between last September and this month, including a plan to develop public housing on a greenbelt site in Wang Chau, Yuen Long, which would see three villages displaced.

The saga later led to other revelations about how the government had decided to postpone another plan to build homes on an adjacent brownfield site after rural strongmen with vested interests expressed their objection in informal and unannounced discussions.

The turbulent period also saw the government disqualifying two localist lawmakers-elect, after the Younspiration duo of Sixtus Baggio Leung Chung-hang and Yau Wai-ching pledged allegiance to a “Hong Kong nation” and used a derogatory term to insult China in their Legislative Council oaths.

The row prompted China’s top legislative body to interpret the Basic Law, the city’s mini-constitution. The move triggered much criticism of Beijing for interfering in local affairs, and raised concerns over the loss of the “one country, two systems” principle.

Four more pan-democratic lawmakers were targeted by the government in a bid to also disqualify them over their oaths.

This was followed closely by the city’s leadership election, which came under scrutiny and criticism for what was perceived as the central government’s blatant promotion of its preferred candidate – now chief-executive elect Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor.