China throws media shield around Xi Jinping visit to Hong Kong

Xi will be in Hong Kong to mark the 25th anniversary of the city’s handover from the UK to China, and it will be his first trip outside the mainland since the pandemic began.

According to the Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA), at least 10 journalists working for local and international organizations have had their applications to cover the events rejected for “security reasons”.

“With the media unable to send journalists on the ground, the HKJA expresses its utmost regret at the rigid reporting arrangements put in place by the authorities for such a major event,” the press group said on Tuesday.

Reuters, Agence France-Press (AFP) and the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post were among the media whose reporters were blocked from covering the ceremonies, according to the HKJA.

CNN has reached out to media outlets for comment. A Hong Kong government spokesman said authorities would strike “the best possible balance between the need for media work and security requirements”.

Reuters reported that two of its journalists were prevented from covering the handover ceremony and inauguration of Hong Kong’s new chief executive, John Lee. It quoted a spokeswoman for Reuters as saying the news agency was seeking more information on the matter.

CNN’s request to attend the events was also denied.

“The government told CNN the police denied the request but declined to elaborate,” a company spokesman said. “CNN is disappointed not to attend official events but will continue to cover Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit.”

The spokesman said the Hong Kong government had told CNN that “it will not comment on the accreditation outcome of individual organizations and individuals.”

Journalists whose applications were denied were unable to cover the raising of the national flag and the swearing-in of Lee, the city’s new leader and former security chief.

The government’s Information Services Department issued invitations to news organizations on June 16, allowing only one journalist per outlet to cover each event.

Every member of the media had to undergo daily PCR tests from June 26 – before official approval or rejection on June 28 – and go into hotel quarantine on June 29 as part of coronavirus-related prevention measures.

“Serious deviation” from freedom of the press

The Foreign Correspondents’ Club in Hong Kong said on Wednesday it was “deeply concerned” by reports that accreditation had been denied.

“Historically, similar official events have been open to media registration without invitation or verification,” the FCC said in a statement Wednesday.

“The FCCHK views these restrictions — which are being enforced without detailed explanation — as a serious departure from this stated commitment to press freedom,” it said.

Hong Kong was once home to one of Asia’s most vibrant media scenes and a place that professed freedom of expression and freedom of the press. But in recent years it has lost almost all of its homegrown independent news outlets.

Beijing imposed a national security law on the city following anti-government protests in 2019. Since then, critics have claimed that some of the freedoms China promised to protect at the handover 25 years ago have been curtailed.

The Hong Kong The government rejects suggestions that press freedom has been undermined, but The future of local independent reporting looks bleak. Although there are still major international media outlets – including CNN and Bloomberg – that operate major newsrooms in the city, few significant local independent media outlets remain.

Some of the city’s largest pro-democracy media outlets were ousted after intense government pressure, a series of arrests and police raids on their newsrooms.

– CNN’s Beijing office contributed to this report.