Veteran journalist flees ‘white terror sweeping’ Hong Kong
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Hong Kong veteran broadcaster Steve Vines fled Chinese territory for the UK due to a “white terror sweeping” the city that made journalism a high-risk occupation.
He announced his departure the same day that Initium Media, an independent Chinese-language news site, announced that it would move its headquarters from Hong Kong to Singapore, and a day after Cantonese pop star Anthony Wong was arrested for singing at a campaign rally ago more than three years.
China introduced a national security law in Hong Kong last year to stamp out dissent in the wake of the 2019 pro-democracy protests. The legislation has paved the way for a broad crackdown. Opponents said it had been used to target criticism of the government, including in the media, while journalists said it had had a chilling effect on press freedom.
“Despite the enactment of the National Security Law last year, we. . . believed that a space might still exist for people who still believed in the promises of granting Hong Kong a high degree of autonomy, ”Vines said in a letter to friends and former colleagues at Radio Television Hong Kong, the broadcaster audience that has been reshuffled to curb its editorial autonomy.
“However, the day these illusions are shattered.”
After accusing the RTHK, a 93-year-old BBC-modeled institution, of biased coverage of the 2019 protests, the Hong Kong government replaced its leader with an official with no journalistic experience.
Vines said he decided to leave Hong Kong for personal and political reasons.
Vines told the Financial Times he was concerned after receiving a warning from a third of pro-Beijing figures in the city. “They have this group of people who are not officially sanctioned. . . that threaten anyone who has supposedly crossed the line. Unfortunately, I was one of them, ”he said.
“[The person] said quite aggressively. . . ‘you better watch your steps, we’re coming for you.’ “
In June, authorities forced the shutdown of Apple Daily, a pro-democracy tabloid, after arresting its senior executives and freezing its assets under security law.
Chinese state media have repeatedly targeted Jimmy Lai, the jailed owner of Apple Daily, accusing him of pressuring US lawmakers to impose sanctions on Hong Kong.
The government also successfully prosecuted Bao Choy, an RTHK reporter, for using a public database during an investigation into police misconduct.
Until recently, Vines hosted The pulse, a news program on RTHK which was deleted last month. He had a long career in the Hong Kong media and was the former chairman of the city’s Foreign Correspondents’ Club.
White Terror refers to decades of authoritarian rule in Taiwan when hundreds of dissidents were jailed. Hong Kong protesters used the term to characterize their fear of retaliation after the 2019 protests.
Wong, the pop singer, was indicted alongside Au Nok-hin, a pro-democracy politician, by the city’s Independent Commission Against Corruption for his performance at a campaign rally in 2018.
“Wong engaged in corrupt conduct. . . by providing entertainment, namely a singing performance, to another person for the purpose of inducing the other person to vote for Au in the election, ”the commission said.
Kacey Wong, a contemporary artist who created a mobile prison to parade the streets during the 2019 protests, said on Tuesday that he also left Hong Kong for Taiwan out of fear for his safety.
Carrie Lam, the leader of Hong Kong, rejected suggestions of any erosion of the freedoms promised to the city after the 1997 handover from the UK.
“If you look at the stock market, the real estate market and the tech industry, start-ups, even arts and culture now, they’re all booming. . . because of the restoration of order and stability in Hong Kong, ”she said last month.