Hong Kong’s Lam: media shutdowns unrelated to press freedom

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said the recent shutdown of two media outlets in the city does not indicate a decline in press freedom, as decisions have been made by the media themselves.

HONG KONG – Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said on Tuesday that the recent shutdown of two media outlets in the city did not indicate a decline in press freedom, as decisions were made by the media themselves .

His comments came nearly a week after authorities arrested seven people associated with pro-democracy online news site Stand News for alleged sedition, with the outlet saying it would cease operations. A few days later, another live site, Citizen News, also announced that it would stop working.

“For none of the media, we did nothing. They have never been approached by law enforcement, ”Lam said at a press conference on Tuesday.

“But if they decide to go out of business for their own concerns, I don’t think that’s anything out of the ordinary.” She added that the Hong Kong authorities “do not seek to suppress press freedom.”

Lam said the government respects the rule of law in Hong Kong and that when she took office for the first time, she opened government press conferences to online sites and met with the Association of Journalists. from Hong Kong.

Responding to accusations that the shutdown of online media indicates the “extinction” of press freedom in Hong Kong, Lam said she “cannot accept such allegations.”

“Nothing is more important than the rule of law,” she said. She also said that as long as the news organizations do not engage in illegal acts, they can continue to report information to Hong Kong.

She said there had been a 5.4% increase in registered local media in the city and a 9.4% jump in foreign media since a sweeping national security law was enacted in the city. city ​​in June 2020.

“So you can’t say that press freedom is eroded due to the shutdown of both media,” Lam said.

Since the security law came into effect, more than 100 people have been arrested, including many pro-democracy activists and some journalists who previously worked for the now defunct Apple Daily and Stand News.

On Tuesday, Chow Hang-tung, a pro-democracy activist and key member of the now-disbanded Hong Kong Alliance in Support of China’s Democratic Patriotic Movements, was sentenced to 15 months in prison after being convicted of inciting people to join a banned group. a vigil last year to commemorate the 1989 crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square.

She has been told to serve an additional 10 months on top of a current 12-month sentence she is serving for her role in the vigil in 2020, which has also been banned.

Separately, Lam said the city will tighten vaccine requirements to cover not only places of entertainment but also places such as libraries, schools and museums.

The requirement will be stepped up from February 24 and will require those entering these places to have at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine.

The vaccine’s mandate extension comes days after Hong Kong reported its first COVID-19 cluster from omicron, linked to several Cathay Pacific crew who broke isolation rules and visited restaurants and bars across town before later testing positive for omicron.

The city has been largely successful in preventing the Delta variant from causing local outbreaks through strict quarantine rules. Hong Kong currently designates all countries with local omicron outbreaks as “high risk” countries, requiring that arrivals from those countries be quarantined for 21 days.

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