. China News .

Hong Kong journalists say freedom under threat
by Staff Writers
Hong Kong (AFP) July 3, 2011

A Hong Kong journalists' group warned Sunday that freedom of expression in the city had deteriorated, saying the territory had become intolerant of dissent as Beijing strengthened its grip.

The former British colony returned to Chinese rule in 1997 but retains a semi-autonomous status under the "one country, two systems" model, with civil liberties including freedom of speech not enjoyed in mainland China.

"There are now growing and disturbing signs that the 'one-country' element is overriding 'two systems'," the Hong Kong Journalists Association said in its annual freedom of expression report.

"This could have far-reaching implications for Hong Kong's autonomy and one of its most fundamental rights -- freedom of expression and press freedom," said the group, which represents some 500 journalists.

It said Beijing had "become more aggressive" in its policy towards Hong Kong, resulting in the territory barring visits by mainland dissidents, while the country's police had become less tolerant of protesters.

The group said Hong Kong journalists faced growing restrictions in reporting, especially in coverage of public protests, after a TV journalist was among more than 200 people arrested at an anti-government march on Friday.

"We are moving further and further away from an open and transparent society," association chairwoman Mak Yin-ting told a news conference.

"What we are more wary (of) is (that) the police have taken a tough line towards protests, where even reporters have been barred and human rights observers were pulled away from the scene," she said.

The group also called for Radio Television Hong Kong, currently a government department, to be made independent.

In response to the report, the government issued a statement saying it would continue to be "open and accountable" but did not plan to enact a freedom of information law, as called for by the Journalists Association.

Protests are common in Hong Kong, and are largely peaceful and tolerated by authorities. But police have made two mass arrests in recent weeks.

Some 231 people were arrested and police used pepper spray to disperse demonstrators after a march on Friday by tens of thousands of people venting their frustration at government policies and soaring property prices.

Last month, police held 53 people for illegal assembly after a massive candlelight vigil to mark the anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown in Beijing.

In January, two former leaders of the Tiananmen pro-democracy protests were refused entry to attend the funeral of a Hong Kong democracy icon, prompting criticism that Hong Kong was bowing to pressure from China.

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Beijing (AFP) July 2, 2011
China's state media said a multi-party political system would unleash chaos equal to the turbulent period of the Cultural Revolution, as the country marks the Communist Party's 90th birthday. The state-run Xinhua news agency, in a focus piece published late Friday after the one-party regime celebrated the anniversary, said Western political systems did not suit China's "national conditions." ... read more

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