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China 6 February 2009

Return to outdated rules for Hong Kong and Macau journalists

Reporters Without Borders deplores the fact that the more relaxed regulations for the foreign press that were introduced for the Olympic Games will no longer apply to Hong Kong and Macau journalists visiting the mainland although they have been maintained for foreign journalists. The Chinese authorities have told the Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA) that reporters from Hong Kong and Macau must obtain a press card from an official body in order to work on the mainland and must request permission from the authorities before every trip into the interior, much as they did before the more new regulations took effect.

“Why are journalists from Hong Kong and Macau being treated less well than foreign journalists?” Reporters Without Borders asked. “It is inexplicable. We urge the Chinese authorities not to return to the past in this way, reversing one of the few positive effects of the Olympic Games.”

Reporters Without Borders has just published an evaluation of the human rights situation in China six months after inauguration of the Olympic Games on 8 August.

It was the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office of China’s State Council that today announced that journalists from the two special administrative regions would no longer enjoy the freedoms that were introduced for the Olympic Games period. They will now have to obtain a press card from the All-China Journalists Association (the official union) before working on the mainland, and they will have to show the card before interviewing Chinese citizens. The will also have to notify the authorities before travelling.

According to the government news agency Xinhua, the new regulations state that: “Journalists from Hong Kong and Macau must abide by national laws and journalism ethics and should carry out coverage objectively and fairly.”

Mak Yin-ting, a journalist and former general secretary of the HKJA, said: “In principle, it is unfair. In practice, it will depend on the good will of the authorities. In either case, it is not normal that this should be worse than the Olympic regulations". Tam Chi-keung, the HKJA’s current chairperson, told Reuters: “This is returning to the old ways ... this cannot fulfil the actual needs of Hong Kong and Macao journalists.”

A Hong Kong journalist who often visits the mainland told Reporters Without Borders: “The impact on our work depends on the way the local authorities apply it. I fear that, as regards sensitive stories, this will prevent us from doing our reporting properly. There could be a restrictive attitude during this coming year, which is a sensitive one.” The Foreign Correspondents Club of China (FCCC) told Reporters Without Borders that, if confirmed, this decision would be very disturbing and contrary to the open attitude displayed by the Chinese authorities during and after the Olympic Games.




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