Chris Young, former editor-in-chief of Citizen News and former president of the Hong Kong Association of Journalists, and Daisy Lee, editor-in-chief of Citizen News, pose for a photo on January 3, 2022, after announcing that Citizen News will cease operations.
“Before the dark winter of political cleansing, we refuse to remain silent.” These words greet the readers of Flow HK news magazine, which aims to fill the news gap in Hong Kong’s media shortage.
Launched in January last year, Flow HK, headquartered in Taiwan, has a team of 10 and publishes online and quarterly amid fears that Hong Kong’s new national security law could affect the media.
“So many things can’t be discussed and debated (in Hong Kong); so many things are so vulnerable that people in Hong Kong can’t talk, so our magazines are 100% free to press. We’re 100% free to speak; we allow any form of discussion,” the general said. editor Sunny Cheung said.
Flow HK addresses political issues such as pro-democracy activism abroad and discussions on boycotting the December legislative elections, which have been sensitive issues since the enactment of the National Security Act.
Cheung, a 25-year-old pro-democracy activist who ran for the Legislative Council, has spoken to the US Congress about his crackdown on Hong Kong activists.
He left the city in August 2020 after his arrest warrant expired. In an interview with VOA, Cheung, who is currently in Washington, said he believed he was accused of several crimes, but did not elaborate.
At the time, it was reported that Cheung should have been tried for participating in an unsanctioned demonstration.
Choon said Taiwan was a preferred destination because of its similar culture when choosing the foundation of Flow HK, which is made up of Hong Kong journalists and writers.
But Hong Kong’s “wooded environment” has also played a role, he added.
It is important that the government continues to be monitored by the media, Cheun said. “We operate (in Taiwan) and hope to keep our daily diaspora in Hong Kong there.” Cheung hopes that more media outlets will work outside the city to avoid the risk of legal action.
Shut down the media
Over the past year, at least four pro-democracy media outlets, including Apple Daily and Stand News, have been shut down after authorities launched a legal investigation into the workers.
“Without Apple Daily, Stand News, and Citizen News, there is very little real pro-democracy news that people can read on a daily basis,” Cheung said.
The risks to pro-democracy media are unbearable, said Keith Richburg, director of the Center for Journalism and Media at the University of Hong Kong.
Richburg told VOA that “everything that is pro-democracy will be removed.” He added, “They are shooting at anyone who supports democracy or has any position against Hong Kong’s ‘patriots.’
“I think you will definitely see more information about Hong Kong from outside Hong Kong because the restrictions are too much and the risks are too great.”
Some established media outlets have already begun relocating their staff.
The New York Times reports that in 2020, some employees will be transferred to Seoul, South Korea. In the memorandum, senior managers mentioned visa and work permit issues, and said it was “unclear how the new rules will affect our operations and journalism.”
In a similar move, local media outlet Initium Media announced in August that its headquarters had been relocated to Singapore.
Hong Kong CEO Carrie Lam has dismissed fears that media freedom in the city is deteriorating.
At a press conference earlier this month, Lam strongly denied allegations that the media closure was “related to the implementation of the National Security Act.”
New businesses are emerging
Some employees of the closed store are joining to start a new business.
Commons Hong Kong, an electronic information platform based in the UK and Taiwan, launched in October. It has a team of eight people, including journalists who worked for Apple Daily.
The Chinese-language site publishes Hong Kong news and international news. This week’s stories include reports that kung fu master and film producer Chekli Sin has announced his plans to run for mayor of Kwok-Lam, and that a hamster has been killed in a coronavirus outbreak.
The site’s editor-in-chief, nicknamed “J”, works in Taiwan. He told VOA that free reporting outside Hong Kong would be an advantage.
“We are trying to find many foreign Hong Kongers in the UK and Taiwan; we are trying to find interesting stories from them. We are writing international news for Hong Kongers,” J said. He added that he saw a gap in the number of messages available from Hong Kong.
“In Hong Kong, regular journalism is no longer available. You can be arrested or jailed for saying something you don’t like about the government,” he added.
So far, the Hong Kong Commons has made a good start. In the last 28 days, his social media circle has grown to more than 900,000 and has 7,382 Facebook followers.
In a statement this month, Lam said that since June 2020, the number of domestic and foreign media outlets registered in Hong Kong has increased.
Richburg objected to the figures, saying that the need to register foreign media with the government began only after the Hong Kong authorities changed their press guidelines in September 2020.
“As for one of the foreign media outlets in the city, they decided to register with the government and the information department because they were already here. That doesn’t mean they just moved to Hong Kong.”
The Voice of America contacted Hong Kong’s Internal Revenue Service to obtain a list of registered media outlets, but did not receive a request under the Business Registration Ordinance.
A government newsletter released in November said that citizens were well-informed, with 94 daily media outlets, 61 of which were in Chinese and 13 in English, “enjoying complete freedom of expression.”
Media outlets such as Flow HK and Commons Hong Kong are trying to have independent news and debate ready, but this may be difficult.
Reporting Hong Kong abroad is not easy, Cheung said. “There will be restrictions. After all, we don’t have our own journalists in Hong Kong.”