Press freedom in HK has always been fully protected, Chinese FM says on RSF's representative denied entry for Jimmy Lai's trial
Published: Apr 11, 2024 08:05 PM
Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Mao Ning Photo: Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Mao Ning Photo: Ministry of Foreign Affairs

In response to media reports about a representative of Reporters Without Borders (RSF), claiming to monitor Jimmy Lai's national security trial, who has been denied entry to Hong Kong on Wednesday, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson said on Thursday that she is not aware of the case, while emphasizing that freedom of the press in Hong Kong has always been fully protected under the Basic Law of Hong Kong.

The organization said in a statement its officer Aleksandra Bielakowska was denied entry at Hong Kong's international airport, the AFP reported on Wednesday. 

She was travelling with the organization's Asia-Pacific bureau director Cedric Alviani "to meet journalists and monitor a hearing in the trial of Jimmy Lai," the media reports said, citing a statement from RSF. 

Lai, the founder of Next Media, along with three companies related to Apple Daily, is charged with conspiring to collude with foreign forces among other charges. The case commenced its 55th day of trial on Thursday at the West Kowloon Magistrates' Courts (acting as the High Court), according to local media reports. 

Commenting on some Western media linking the incident of RSF's representative being denied entry to Hong Kong with so-called erosion of freedom of the press in Hong Kong, Mao Ning, spokesperson of the Chinese Foreign Ministry, said on Thursday that "what I can tell you is that for over 26 years since Hong Kong's return, freedom of speech and the press have always been fully guaranteed by the Basic Law of Hong Kong."

In recent years, the number of international media and journalists in Hong Kong has continued to grow, an objective fact that cannot be denied by anyone, she said. 

"I doubt RSF's motive other than attending hearing and reporting of Lai's trial," Chu Kar-kin, a veteran commentator based in the HKSAR and member of the Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macao Studies, told the Global Times on Thursday. 

Lai's trial is a local criminal case related to national security, which is a domestic affair with the prosecution trial hearing being open to the public, Chu said. 

"In accordance with the Immigration Ordinance, the Hong Kong Immigration Department can exercise the right to detain and deport a person," he said. 

Also, Article 27 of the Basic Law safeguards freedom of speech of the press and of publication of Hong Kong residents. We can still obtain bilingual news updates of the trial, Chu noted. "Journalists are freely reporting and citing the highlights of criminal litigation. Such reports reflect that freedom of the press in Hong Kong exists."

The Immigration Department does not comment on individual cases. The department will handle each immigration case according to relevant laws and policies, including considering the true purpose of a traveler's entry, in order to decide whether to approve the person's entry, according to a statement the department sent to the Global Times on Thursday.

Global Times