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Hong Kong journalists say freedom under threat

A Hong Kong journalists' group warned Sunday freedom of expression in the city had deteriorated, saying it had become intolerant of dissent as Beijing strengthened its grip on the territory, Agence-France-Presse (AFP) has reported. 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 over-riding 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 in the city.

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It said Beijing had "become more aggressive" in pursuing its policies towards Hong Kong, which had responded by barring visits by mainland dissidents while the city's police had become less tolerant of protestors. The group said Hong Kong journalists faced increasing restrictions in reporting especially coverage of public protests, after a TV journalist was among more than 200 people arrested following 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 is 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.

Daily protests are common in Hong Kong, and they are largely peaceful and allowed by the authorities but the police have made two mass arrests in recent weeks. Police arrested 231 people and used pepper spray to disperse demonstrators after a march Friday by tens of thousands of people venting their frustration at government policies and soaring property prices.

Last month, they detained 53 people for illegal assembly after a massive candlelight vigil to mark 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.

Date posted: July 3, 2011 Last modified: May 24, 2018 Total views: 341