Hiram Johnson, U.S. Senator in 1917, pronounced a powerful phrase also attributed to the Greek philosopher Aeschylus. The quote reads: “In war, truth is the first casualty.”
Truth has been buried in Hong Kong since the enactment of the Basic Law in 1990 by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), which came into force in July 1997. This mini-constitution was aimed to ensure the status quo under the principle of “one country, two systems.”
Then, under Article 23 of the Basic Law, the National Security Law was enacted in June 2020, whereby “one country, two systems” was de facto repealed in the face of the Chinese regime’s criminal crackdown on Hong Kong civil society.
The shadowy scaffolding of Beijing’s silent war on freedoms, especially freedom of expression, meant that this year, 2022, the Hong Kong Journalists Association did not publish its thirtieth yearbook on free expression.
However, a group of exiled reporters broke the formality and published a white paper on the CCP’s persecution of the media entitled “Stories that cannot be silenced.” It highlights the closure of Apple Daily.
The opinion, in samizdat format, was published on the International Federation of Journalists platform with great secrecy after the casus belli unleashed by Beijing against the Hong Kong press.
It can be said that the persecution against free journalism in Hong Kong began on June 17, 2021, when the CCP sent five hundred police officers at the Apple Daily newsroom and arrested five senior executives of the company.
At the time, the repressive body alleged that the newspaper had published, from 2019 to date, thirty articles calling on the West to impose sanctions against China. However, on June 24, 2021, the newspaper closed its doors and became a symbol of freedom.
Li Zhiying, founder of the media, known as Jimmy Lay, and his two sons, were indicted under Article 29 of the National Security Law on charges of “collusion with a foreign country or with external elements to endanger national security,” according to a uniform report.
A 40,000-word, five-chapter white paper on freedom of expression
The report on independent journalism in Hong Kong also recorded the closure of the newspaper Position, the ban on correspondents, and the persecution of internet platforms in Chinese territory and overseas under the auspices of the National Security Law.
Civil society took the initiative outside the limits imposed by Beijing, which was a great challenge.
Fundamentally for the Hong Kong reporter known by the nickname Muzi, who exposed the silence of the international community on Hong Kong from the shadows.
Muzi said that while writing the report, he found out that independent media abroad are very useful, and that there are many sources exposing the CCP.
He referred to the pressure on the Hong Kong Journalists Association not to publish the annual report on freedom of expression, which appears 30 years ago.
He said, “Why do we need to remain anonymous when we have already published the opinion on an international platform? This reflects the situation we face under Hong Kong’s ‘National Security Law.’ I think this situation needs global attention.”
In this regard, the former assistant professor of the Department of Journalism at Hong Kong Baptist University, Du Yaoming, also spoke out and said it is the responsibility of the Hong Kong Journalists Association to publish the Annual Report on Freedom of Expression, but it was not possible because of the great threat they face.
He said, “The national security law can first arrest, confiscate property, detain and not allow bail, this huge fear makes many people very worried” and added, The Hong Kong Journalists Association, “has been forced to keep silent. The self-censorship of the Hong Kong Journalists Association this time is enough It reflects the severity of press freedom in Hong Kong.”
According to Du Yaoming, “If we say that the freedom of the press in Hong Kong is murdered, the murderer is obviously the Hong Kong SAR government.”