Veteran BBC journalist Fergal Keane opened his speech on press freedom at a recent forum at the Foreign Correspondents' Club by saying how happy he was to be back in Hong Kong - 'the very heart of human rights in Asia'. Following him on the podium was The Frontier lawmaker Emily Lau Wai-hing, who raised serious questions about self-censorship dictated by news bosses in the city. Basil Fernando, executive director of the Asian Human Rights Commission followed. A plethora of regional and international rights groups have established offices in Hong Kong. Amnesty International, the Asian Human Rights Commission, Green- peace and other non-governmental organisations have their regional or China offices in the city, monitoring everything from labour rights on the mainland to police torture in India. Every year the University of Hong Kong hosts students from around the world in its post graduate degree in human rights law, the only one of its kind in the region. The presence of international NGOs causes them to sound alarm bells when there is the slightest risk of government encroachment on people's rights. Solicitor-General Robert Allcock welcomed the existence of such groups, saying it reinforced 'the fundamental right to express views' that was guaranteed by the Basic Law. 'We may disagree with their criticisms, but we in no way suppress views,' he said. 'When we say Hong Kong is a tolerant and freewheeling city, it is not just talk.' More recently, the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre set up an East Asia research position in Hong Kong - its first outpost in Asia - to promote corporate social responsibility among local and multinational businesses in the region. Director Christopher Avery said Hong Kong was an obvious choice. 'We are in Hong Kong because it is an important centre of business in Asia, because of the importance of China and because of the fact that Hong Kong has such a vibrant group of NGOs and advocates working on human rights issues,' he said. 'For example, corporate social responsibility groups here are doing some of the best work in the world on the subject.' Lo King-wah, of the press freedom subcommittee of the Hong Kong Journalists Association, said that with the increase in free newspapers and news stations on pay TV, the media sector appeared to be growing. 'It is hard to tell if this will improve the quality of news, but it shows that Hong Kong is a very free society and transparency is very important to investors and to the general public,' he said.