China Criticizes Press Freedom Survey That Shows Journalists Want to Leave Hong Kong

China is questioning the validity and data of a new survey regarding press freedom.

The Hong Kong Foreign Correspondents' Club (FCC) survey found that nearly half of its members expressed interest in leaving Hong Kong, the Associated Press reported. Members cited a decline in press freedoms as a primary reason for the desire to leave. Eighty-three of the 99 journalists interviewed said things have "changed for the worse."

In 2019, Beijing enacted a sweeping law in response to pro-democracy protests. The law outlawed what the government calls subversion, secession, foreign collusion and terrorism, and it has since been used to arrest over 120 people.

However, the Commissioner's Office of China's Foreign Ministry is firing back at the survey, saying that the FCC consists of "black hands" that are intervening in city affairs.

In a statement, the office said, "There is no absolute press freedom in the world that is above the law. It is a common international practice for countries to supervise the news media working in their own countries in accordance with the law."

Critics of the law said it has rolled back previously promised freedoms in the region, resulting in the imprisonment of many pro-democracy activists.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Apple Daily
China criticized a press freedom survey from the Hong Kong Foreign Correspondents' Club that found nearly half its members were considering leaving the city. Above, an Apple Daily journalist holds freshly printed copies of the newspaper's last edition to be distributed to supporters gathered outside their office in Hong Kong early on June 24, 2021, as the pro-democracy tabloid was forced to close after 26 years under a sweeping new national security law. Photo by Daniel Suen/AFP via Getty Images

"These results clearly show that assurances that Hong Kong still enjoys press freedom, guaranteed under the Basic Law, are not enough," FCC President Keith Richburg said. "More steps need to be taken to restore confidence among journalists and to make sure Hong Kong maintains its decades-long reputation as a welcoming place for the international media."

The survey comes as authorities are cracking down on political dissent in Hong Kong.

The former British colony was previously known for its vibrant press freedoms, and for decades has served as regional headquarters for many English-language news outlets.

The national security law has been used against journalists in the city. The pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily was forced to close in June after millions of dollars in assets were frozen and several top editors and executives arrested.

The New York Times has transferred some of its staff from Hong Kong to Seoul due to the uncertainties about the city's prospects for journalism under the security legislation.

China's Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said Friday at a regular news briefing that the rights of foreign media and journalists in Hong Kong will be "fully protected" as long as they report in accordance with the law.

Wang said that as of April this year, there were 628 foreign employees with work visas for foreign media in Hong Kong, an 18.5 percent increase from the same time last year.

"It is a true reflection of how people from all walks of life, including foreign media in Hong Kong, see and feel about the economic and social and media reporting environment in Hong Kong," he said.

China criticized a press freedom survey from the Hong Kong Foreign Correspondents' Club that found nearly half its members were considering leaving the city. Above, a man enters the Hong Kong Foreign Correspondents' Club in Hong Kong on November 5, 2021. AP Photo/Kin Cheung