Increasing intervention from Beijing, the chilling effect of some “troubling” incidents, and government policies that curtail free expression are what caused the decline of Hong Kong’s press freedom, said Jason Y. Ng, convenor of the Progressive Lawyers Group.
在此報告，我們概括了2018年度影響香港法治的事件，提供法律分析，並向政府及其他持份者作出建議。(Great thanks to our team and media friends for making the launch of our inaugural Rule of Law Report a success! In our Rule of Law Report 2018, we record events which affected the rule of law in Hong Kong in 2018, provide legal analysis of the same, and make recommendations for the government and stakeholders.)
A tiny and previously little-known political party with no presence in the legislature would have languished on the fringes of Hong Kong’s political sphere were it not for attempts by the city’s government to crush the group.
Now, the Hong Kong National Party finds itself in the limelight, raised to an unaccustomed level of prominence in a dispute that is fast becoming a test for the city’s autonomy.
An independent press is called the fourth estate because it holds accountable the ruling class – from the clergy and the noblemen in medieval times to the three branches of government in modern democracies.
In Hong Kong, the press plays an especially critical role because citizens are deprived of a democratically elected government. Both the chief executive and nearly half the legislature are appointed by small committees stacked with pro-Beijing loyalists, which gives ordinary people little leverage over politicians they play no part in choosing. Going to the press is often the most effective, if not the only, recourse available to those who want their grievances heard or injustices righted.
A few weeks ago, Beijing-friendly columnist Chris Wat Wing-yin (屈穎妍) issued a letter through her lawyers to radio host and columnist Tsang Chi-ho (曾志豪), alleging that his article titled “The Wat Wing-yin Phenomenon”, published in Apple Daily, had caused her harm. Wat demanded Tsang publish an apology and clarification. Although the exact contents of Wat’s letter are not publicly available, it is a fair guess that her demands were based on an accusation of defamation.