Local, HK activists warn on freedom of the press

By Loa Iok-sin  /  Staff reporter

Fri, Mar 07, 2014 - Page 3

Human rights activists from Taiwan and Hong Kong yesterday urged the Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) and the public to pay greater attention following the vicious attack on former Hong Kong-based Ming Pao editor-in-chief Kevin Lau (劉進圖), calling it a politically motivated incident and an attempt by the Chinese government to suppress freedom of the press.

“Lau was first forced to step down as editor-in-chief of Ming Pao newspaper in January, and was attacked by two unidentified men last week. We believe that China is behind all these, and it is a warning to Taiwan on how China manipulates the media,” Association of Taiwan Journalists chairwoman Chen Hsiao-yi (陳曉宜) told a rally outside the council’s building.

“Thus we are here not only to show our support for freedom of the press in Hong Kong, but also to defend our own freedom,” Chen said.

Chen added that firing media owners and chief editors, banning ads and attacking journalists or interviewees are just some of the tactics that the Chinese government has employed to influence the media.

“This is happening in Hong Kong now, and it may happen in Taiwan soon, as the [proposed cross-strait] service trade agreement seeks to allow Chinese businesses to publish advertisements in Taiwanese newspapers,” she said.

Sing Ming (成名), an associate professor in Hong Kong University of Science and Technology’s social science division, agreed.

“I believe that Lau was attacked because, when he was the editor-in-chief of Ming Pao, the newspaper published a series of reports on high-ranking Chinese officials hiding their wealth in banks abroad,” Sing said. “If we people of Hong Kong do not stand up, we would lose not only freedom of the press, but also our civil liberties, as well as prosperity and stability.”

China is certain to use the same strategy to exert control over Taiwanese media outlets, Sing said.

Leung Man-to (梁文韜), a professor in National Cheng Kung University’s Department of Political Science, who is originally from Hong Kong and a personal friend of Lau, said that he believed Lau was not attacked due to personal reasons.

“Last year, several owners of media outlets that are not so ‘obedient’ to Beijing were threatened or attacked. It is no coincidence that similar cases are happening in such a short period of time,” Leung said. “Obviously it’s because Lau has crossed the line for the Chinese government.”

The activists later delivered a petition to the council.