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Published: 01:17, May 11, 2023 | Updated: 10:17, May 11, 2023
Western media should reflect on their fallacious reports
By Henry Ho
Published:01:17, May 11, 2023 Updated:10:17, May 11, 2023 By Henry Ho

The Washington Post recently produced two editorial articles touching on Hong Kong’s press freedom and the proposed reform of the city’s district councils respectively. It’s appalling that The Post published two editorials, within a week, both containing fallacious and unsubstantiated remarks on Hong Kong. 

The Post’s allegation of deterioration in Hong Kong’s press freedom after the implementation of the National Security Law for Hong Kong (NSL) is a mere regurgitation of Washington politicians’ biased narratives. It is part of Washington’s political rhetoric that serves its geopolitical ends rather than part of an intellectual discourse. 

The Post showed a reckless disregard for facts when it asserted “these arrests and trials, with their pretty much foregone conclusions, have nothing to do with national security and everything to do with the ruling Communist Party’s attempt to eliminate free and independent media in the restive territory”.

The NSL outlaws acts of secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign or external forces; a “free and independent media” is not supposed to be in the business of any of these things.

The frivolous allegation of “foregone conclusions” reveals not only sheer arrogance but blatant contempt for Hong Kong’s Judiciary, which is internationally renowned for its professionalism and independent operation.     

Hong Kong’s judges and courts have been exercising their powers independently and are free from interference. This has been recognized internationally: Hong Kong ranked 22nd among 140 countries and jurisdictions in the World Justice Project 2022 rule of law index, ahead of the United States (26th).

There is no way for the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government to influence the outcome of any court case, not to mention the CPC. Under the NSL, the designation of judges by the chief executive, after consultation with the chief justice, only forms a pool of judges to handle NSL cases. The Judiciary decides which judges are to hear a particular NSL case and appeals. Similar arrangements prevail within the Judiciary as judges are selected to hear certain court cases based on their expertise and experience. Once designated, judges administer justice and handle all cases fairly and impartially. 

By virtue of the Basic Law, judges, once appointed, enjoy security of tenure as well as immunity from legal action in the performance of their judicial duties. As set out in Article 89 of the Basic Law, judges can only be removed for their inability to discharge their duties or for misbehavior, by the chief executive on the recommendation of a tribunal appointed by the chief justice and consisting of not fewer than three local judges. These safeguards ensure that judges handle court cases without bias, based solely on evidence and the law before them.

The Post’s allegation of deterioration in Hong Kong’s press freedom after the implementation of the National Security Law for Hong Kong (NSL) is a mere regurgitation of Washington politicians’ biased narratives. It is part of Washington’s political rhetoric that serves its geopolitical ends rather than part of an intellectual discourse

Meanwhile, Hong Kong is a society underpinned by the rule of law and lawbreakers should be held accountable for their acts. The arrests of media tycoon Jimmy Lai Chee-ying and other editorial staff of the now-defunct Apple Daily, as well as several senior staff of Stand News, have nothing to do with press freedom. The criminal acts they have been charged with, such as collusion with foreign forces under the NSL, sedition under the sedition law, and fraud, do not fall within the scope of journalistic and speech freedom. 

The Post’s attack on the HKSAR government’s reform plans for the city’s district councils (DCs) with the aim of restoring these district-level organizations to their original roles and functions was also far off the mark.

DCs are designated to be advisory bodies that provide advice to, assist and cooperate with the HKSAR government to improve administrative management at the district level, focusing on the improvement of the quality of life of the residents. However, the anti-China political agitators who gained control of the DCs in 2019 had a different purpose for their councilorship. They leveraged the resources of the DCs to promote their separatist political agendas, disrupted DC meetings and undermined their operations, rendering the DCs unable to fulfill their duties of tackling community-level issues at the expense of residents. 

It is a fallacy for The Post to claim that DCs have served as avenues for “Hong Kongers to be able to voice their political preferences and disaffection”. DCs are not organs of political power, and political discourse is not among its functions. This is unambiguously stipulated in Article 97 of the Basic Law. 

The One Country Two Systems Youth Forum has established and maintained a Western media monitoring database for about two years. Our research team members have systematically collected and analyzed 18 Western media outlets’ reporting on Hong Kong issues. Among these Western media outlets, seven are newspapers, three are magazines, three are news agencies and five are electronic media outlets. 

Based on the database findings, The Washington Post has always been biased and prejudiced in covering Hong Kong’s political issues. Since early January, the newspaper has published at least five negative reports about Hong Kong. The recent two editorials that took a swipe at Hong Kong with disinformation and deceptive assertions are further evidence that The Post maintains a biased position toward issues of the HKSAR.

Attentive readers could have seen a silver lining in the statistics of The Post’s anti-China or anti-Hong Kong SAR reports/editorials: Press freedom is very much alive and kicking in Hong Kong. The Post and all other Western media outlets that are critical of China and its HKSAR still circulate freely in the city even after the implementation of the NSL.

The author is a member of the Beijing Municipal Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, and founder and chairman of the One Country Two Systems Youth Forum.

The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.

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