Updated: Jul 31
26 April 2023 – Following the launch of the British Parliament’s All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Hong Kong’s report on Hong Kong’s media freedoms and the case of Jimmy Lai, the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) government released a statement “firmly rejecting” the report’s findings. The HKSAR government referred to the UK government’s report, in which the Committee for Freedom in Hong Kong (CFHK) Foundation submitted written and oral evidence, as “fact-twisting” and “smearing” the implementation of Hong Kong’s National Security Law (NSL). A spokesman for Hong Kong outlined the NSL and Basic Law, claiming:
Article 4 of the NSL stipulates “that the rights and freedoms, including the freedoms of speech, of the press and of publication…shall be protected in accordance with the law.” Hong Kong’s media landscape is “as vibrant as ever”, and the media can “exercise their right to monitor the Government’s work”.
Article 63 of the Basic Law states that the HKSAR’s Department of Justice oversees criminal prosecutions while Article 85 declares the independence of Hong Kong’s judiciary, both of which are free from any interference.
Article 25 of the Basic Law ensures all Hong Kong residents are equal before the law, all defendants have the right to appeal, and the prosecution must prove “beyond reasonable doubt before the defendant can be convicted” in all criminal trials.
Let’s look at the actual record in Hong Kong. Hong Kong’s “vibrant” media landscape includes 13 imprisoned media personnel as well as the closure of at least 13 media outlets with others shutting down or reshuffling operations. Media tycoon and British citizen Jimmy Lai has been in jail for 846 days. Just last week, HKSAR government-approved media outlets were prevented from attending the government’s National Security Education Day event. As far as “fair” trials and judicial “independence” are concerned, the Chinese Communist Party, not the HKSAR Department of Justice, can directly determine the outcome of court cases. In the case of Jimmy Lai, China’s National People’s Congress (NPC) Standing Committee declared that Hong Kong’s leader John Lee, rather than the courts, holds the authority to decide whether Mr Lai can be defended by his lawyer of choice. Mark Clifford, the President of the Committee for Freedom in Hong Kong (CFHK) Foundation, said: “Hong Kong’s “vibrant” media environment and judicial independence went out the window long ago with the implementation of the Chinese Communist Party’s sweeping National Security Law in June 2020. Media personnel and outlets continue to be arrested and banned, critiques of the government are not welcome even within legal parameters, and the independence of the judiciary has been stamped out by the Chinese Communist Party’s puppet government. If the Hong Kong government truly thinks they are upholding Hong Kong’s Basic Law, it is my sincere hope that the British government’s report will inform them of the violations of Hong Kong’s basic rights under what should be local law and what is international law. Saying so doesn’t make it so. The Hong Kong government’s claims are from a sort of Alice-in-Wonderland fantasy world. If Hong Kong’s government truly believed in a free press it would, for a start, let Jimmy Lai and the other dozen journalists it holds in jail free.”