Hong Kong Sees Worst Year Ever for Press Freedom Amid Battle with China: 'In Tatters'

This year has been dubbed "the worst year so far" for press freedom in Hong Kong as China works to reshape the city into its own authoritarian hub.

The Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA), the city's main journalism union, shared a report Thursday that deemed Hong Kong's press freedoms to be "in tatters" because of China's control.

The report stated that the threats against press freedom in the media have increased drastically over the last year.

"Suppression from the authorities is felt across different forms of media; freedoms have seriously deteriorated under a repressive government," the report said.

China's work to suppress the media took a drastic turn this year after Apple Daily, Hong Kong's primary newspaper, was shut down.

In June, the paper's offices were raided by roughly 500 police officers and the arrests of many journalists and editors proved Beijing's tightening grip on the "pro-democracy" media outlet.

More than 1,000 people, including 700 journalists, lost their jobs in the shutdown, and executives of the paper and its overarching publisher, Next Digital, were imprisoned for attempting to undermine the National Security Law.

Beijing has been moving in on Hong Kong in recent years, working to take control over the region of 7.5 million people.

Hong Kong's journalist union now fears the possibility of China imposing "fake news" laws, which would suffocate journalists and press freedom even further. The law and the recent arrests of such media kingpins have done significant damage in "tightening data search of public registers and redefining journalists unilaterally," the report said.

The report also added, "HKJA is not only concerned about the unemployment of hundreds of media workers caused by the closure of this media outlet, but also the erosion of freedom and the damage done to the diversified media scene."

It said that the arrests of "media professionals is also damaging for the city's international reputation, especially when Hong Kong takes pride in its free flow of information and free exchange of ideas."

The union's concern lies in the way China has reportedly changed the city's public broadcaster, Radio Television Hong Kong (RTHK) into "a government propaganda apparatus" by taking control of the corporation and making significant changes to staff and programming.

The report said that the National Security Law "is being weaponized, the proposed 'Fake News Law' offered another sharp knife to the Government, famed writers and broadcasters bore the brunt, and foreign press are making plans to retreat from Hong Kong."

Ronson Chan, chairman of the HKJA, told the Hong Kong Free Press that "There are already many knives hanging over journalists' heads like laws against sedition and incitement so we do not need one more named a fake news law."

Newsweek reached out to the HKJA for additional comment but did not hear back in time for publication.

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The Hong Kong Journalists Association named 2021 the worst year so far for press freedom. Pictured, the logo of Next Media and Apple Daily are seen on their headquarters in Hong Kong on June 22, 2021 as the embattled pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily has been hit by a wave of resignations as authorities push to see the outspoken tabloid silenced and staff mull whether to leave or stay to the bitter end. PETER PARKS/AFP via Getty Images