GT investigates: Hong Kong Journalists Association 'fails to represent HK media; connection to riots raises eyebrow'
Disingenuous and dangerous
Published: Jul 01, 2024 10:12 PM
Police officers face a large crowd of what appears to be press as they move to arrest a rioter outside the Prince Edward police station in Hong Kong, on September 22, 2019. Photo: AFP

Police officers face a large crowd of what appears to be press as they move to arrest a rioter outside the Prince Edward police station in Hong Kong, on September 22, 2019. Photo: AFP

The infamous Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA) recently elected its new executive committee. The new committee, unsurprisingly similar to the association's previous leadership, is mainly composed of journalists from foreign media outlets and freelancers, making it more like a group representing foreign journalists in Hong Kong.

Indeed, the HKJA, with its spotty history of colluding with separatist politicians and instigating riots in Hong Kong, is by no means a professional organization representing the Hong Kong media. It instead serves as a base for anti-China separatist forces to disrupt Hong Kong, and a malignant tumor that harms the city's safety and stability, said analysts. 

The HKJA has long been criticized for its continued misconduct, said Willy Fu, a law professor who is also the director of the Chinese Association of Hong Kong & Macao Studies. Its misconducts include but are not limited to tolerating "anti-government reporters," covering up violence, smearing the central and Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) governments, maligning the National Security Law for Hong Kong and the Article 23 legislation, infiltrating campuses, and corrupting the youth, Fu said.

The association, in name, is a journalists' organization, but has long been driven by political agendas, rendering it completely illegitimate, Fu noted.

Members in question

The HKJA's new executive committee, elected on June 22, consists of 10 members (excluding two other members who have since quit). Among them, apart from Joe Leung Cho-yiu, a senior journalist at HK01, there are no other members from Hong Kong's mainstream media outlets.

A name list of the executive committee on the HKJA's website showed how absurd and disturbing the association's new leadership is. Its new chairperson is Selina Cheng, a Wall Street Journal reporter who has written a number of articles attacking the National Security Law for Hong Kong and the Safeguarding National Security Ordinance for "suppressing human rights and freedoms."

James Griffiths, a correspondent for Canada-based The Globe and Mail, is also a member of the HKJA's new executive committee. According to Hong Kong media outlet Ta Kung Pao, Griffiths once described the national security law for Hong Kong as "draconian," and smeared Hong Kong of "cracking down on dissent." 

At least four of the 10 committee members are so-called "freelancers." Of them, Theodora Yu has penned several articles demonizing the central and HKSAR governments. An article she wrote for The Washington Post in January made the claim that Hong Kong's development "is becoming a corollary to political control."

It is obvious that most of the committee members do not represent the mainstream media in Hong Kong. Worse still, its connection with foreign anti-China forces has raised questions about whose interests this "journalists association" really speaks for, analysts said. 

One of the candidates who quit the election was Cheung Ho-ming, a senior policy adviser at the Hong Kong Justice Centre, an organization financially supported by the National Endowment for Democracy (NED). The NED gave $90,000 to the Centre in 2018, its website shows. 

NED has been the mastermind behind separatist riots, color revolutions, political crises, lies and rumors, and infiltration around the world NED was seen behind color revolutions instigated and orchestrated by the US, including the disintegration of the Soviet Union, the Rose Revolution in Georgia, the Orange Revolution in Ukraine, and the Arab Spring, according to a report released by the Chinese foreign ministry.

Full of iniquities

The HKJA has a tarnished reputation, with past executive committee members having had deep anti-government backgrounds and were even being used by other countries to incite "color revolutions," said Victor Chan Chi-ho, executive vice chairman of the Hong Kong Association of Young Commentators.

"For example, most members were involved in smearing the HKSAR government and Hong Kong police, and inciting violence, which seriously violated the National Security Law for Hong Kong and disrupted Hong Kong's prosperity and stability," Chan told the Global Times. "How can such an organization be trusted?"

One day ahead of the HKJA's new executive committee being elected, Hong Kong's Secretary for Security Chris Tang Ping-keung called the HKJA an organization "with no recognition" and said it had stood with the "black-clad violent mob" during the 2019 anti-government unrest, the South China Morning Post reported. 

Aside from the association's absurd action of instigating riots, it did so by indiscriminately issuing "press passes" or "membership cards" to non-media individuals, allowing the latter to obstruct and even attack police officers in the name of "press freedom." According to local media reports, the threshold for joining the HKJA was incredibly low - as easy as paying HK $20 ($2.56) to get a membership card.

Under the association's cover, many rioters participated in various illegal assemblies in that period with such so-called "press cards." Holding the cards in hand, wearing safety vests with "PRESS" emblazoned on them, they were seen shuttling between the police and radical protesters, and even wantonly provoking the front-line police officers.

In August 2019, posing as a journalist, infamous secessionist Cheng Wai-shing photographed the faces of police officers at close range and made provocative acts during a riot. He claimed to be from a media organization called "Frontline Observer" and showed a press pass with that name. However, an online search found no websites or social media pages under that name, local media Wen Wei Po reported. 

Cheng was arrested by the police in 2015 and was then jailed for 34 months for illegally making and possessing explosives, according to media reports. At the time, Cheng claimed to be a factory worker. It's unfathomable how he became a "journalist" soon after being released from prison. 

A number of teenagers were also incited to get involved in the conspiracies of the thuggish and separatist forces. In Tsim Sha Tsui in June 2020, a 12-year-old boy and a 16-year-old girl were on the protest front line in the name of "student reporters." They told the police that they were volunteer reporters carrying out news reporting activities at the scene. "In view of their safety, the police took them to a police station without arresting them," reported the Xinhua News Agency. "The police subsequently contacted their guardians to pick them up."

This incident angered many local residents, especially parents, who accused the association of disregarding the safety of juveniles and encouraging them to engage in violence, in order to achieve its political goals, media reported.

Unprofessional, unwelcome

The HKJA was established in 1968 by Jack and Margaret Spackman. Over the years, the number of association members has been fewer than 10 percent of the local media industry, with quite a few being non-media personnel. It has never been an independent, professional media organization, but "a weird mix of dragons and fishes," commented observers reached by the Global Times.

The HKJA's leadership has been filled with secessionists. Its previous chairman Chris Yeung, for instance, is a typical separatist close to anti-China rioter Jimmy Lai, Next Digital Media's founder, who is now in prison, according to a Ta Kung Pao report. 

In August 2020, after Lai and several executives of Next Digital Media were arrested for colluding with overseas forces, conspiracy to defraud, and incitement, Yeung kept defending Lai and his evildoings with lies and smears against the HKSAR government, reported local media Ta Kung Pao.

Mak Yin-ting, another former chair of the HKJA, joined a separatist group to visit the US in May 2019. During the trip, they met with then US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, then Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and then White House National Security Council Senior Director for Asian Affairs Matt Pottinger among others. The US Congressional-Executive Commission on China arranged for them to attend a so-called hearing on Hong Kong and ask the HKSAR government to withdraw the draft amendments to the Fugitive Offenders Ordinance, a clear proof of US interference in Hong Kong affairs. 

The group included infamous secessionist leaders like Martin Lee Chu-ming and Nathan Law Kwun-chung. Mak's appearance in this group was a stark display of her anti-China stance.

Chan criticized the HKJA for "selling dog meat under the guise of mutton." "It sails under false colors to continue its trajectory of anti-China and anti-Hong Kong activities," Chan told the Global Times.

The HKJA and its wrongdoings have severely threatened Hong Kong's stability and harmed the reputation of the local media establishment, which is considered a "fourth power" in Hong Kong. On June 25, after the HKJA elected its new executive committee, some Hong Kong residents went to the Hong Kong Police Headquarters and petitioned on the issue of the HKJA. They protested against the association's alleged involvement of, and control by, foreign powers, reported Wen Wei Po that day.

Without any professional qualifications or ethics, the HKJA has arbitrarily issued membership cards and cooperated with Western media outlets to smear Hong Kong.

The HKJA "...encourages biased reporting, [and] randomly issues press passes to any unqualified individuals to pretend to be members of the press," read a letter a Hong Kong resident wrote to the International Federation of Journalists in November 2019, in which the resident asked for an investigation and condemnation of the HKJA.

The letter listed some of the villainies the association did during the riots that year. "...the list goes on and each point can easily be substantiated with evidence," noted the writer at the end of the letter. "They [HKJA members] ...are robbing and depriving us of our freedoms - freedoms of speech, freedom of work, freedom of movement, [and] freedom to live normal lives."