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FCC statement on threats to Al Jazeera

Three years ago, the Foreign Correspondents’ Club, Hong Kong stood with our Al Jazeera English colleagues convicted in Egypt in a shocking attack on press freedom everywhere.

Today, we reiterate that call on behalf of Al Jazeera itself.

More than ever, the Gulf region and the world need the services of a news-gathering organisation that brings a unique, informed perspective.

To those that demand that Al Jazeera be shut down, and those that attack the work of our colleagues as fake news:

We demand journalists be able to do their jobs free from intimidation and threat.

We demand diversity of thought and opinion be cherished, not feared.

We demand the public have access to unbiased information.

We demand journalists not be treated as criminals.

We demand those without a voice be heard.

We demand press freedom.

You can join the conversation and share your demands using the hashtag #DemandPressFreedom.

British government needs to be robust over Sino-British Joint Declaration, says Jonathan Dimbleby

BBC presenter and historian, Jonathan Dimbleby, left, talked about the state of world politics when he appeared at the FCC. Photo: Sarah Graham/FCC BBC presenter and historian, Jonathan Dimbleby, left, talked about the state of world politics when he appeared at the FCC. Photo: Sarah Graham/FCC

The British government should be “very robust” over whether it believes the Sino-British Joint Declaration on Hong Kong’s handover has been violated, veteran broadcaster Jonathan Dimbleby said, the week after China’s foreign ministry dismissed the treaty as a “historical document that no longer has any realistic meaning”.

The BBC Question Time host and historian said that while the U.K. government had last week reiterated that the 1984 treaty was binding, the overall criticism had been “muted”.

He said that if it was agreed that a violation had taken place, then it would “call into question whether you could trust China’s word when it came to signing documents”.

“I think that the British government should be very robust in saying whether or not this agreement has or has not… been violated,” he said

He added that he believed that independent trading relations, post-Brexit, could “overshadow concern for the evolution of democracy here [in Hong Kong]”.

Dimbleby revealed that as a journalist in the 1990s he came across minutes of meetings conducted in the late 1980s between the British government and Beijing that showed the U.K. government of the time had little intention to push for democracy in Hong Kong after the handover. In public, he said, the Conservative government was assuring Hongkongers that they would achieve democracy as part of the agreement.

Watch Jonathan Dimbleby’s Q&A session

“In the way that one does as a writer or journalist… I came across minutes of meetings conducted in late 80s between the British government and the Beijing government. In public, if you look back… the British government were saying to the people of Hong Kong yes, you will have democracy and we want you to have more of it, we will fight for that.

“Simultaneously the British government was reassuring Beijing they had no intention of rocking the prevailing apple cart and central government need have no fear that democracy would be taken forward in the way that a lot of people, as the polls showed here, wanted it to be.

“I came away from that experience and wrote about it without great faith in how my government would deal with Beijing,” Dimbleby told the packed July 5 club lunch.

The night before, Dimbleby had taken part in a BBC World Questions debate alongside Joshua Wong, one of the student leaders of Occupy Central and the founder of the pro-democracy Demosisto party. He praised the 20-year-old, saying: “Joshua Wong is a remarkable illustration of the intelligent young of this generation.”

In a change to the usual club lunch formula, the floor was opened up to questions from the outset. Dimbleby was asked what he thought of Brexit, the U.K. General Election outcome, and Donald Trump as president.

He said: “I woke up like many people after my country voted for Brexit in a state of shock and astonishment. Those who supported Brexit were equally astonished because they never expected to win.”

On the U.S. question, he continued: “Like many people I believed that Donald Trump would never emerge as President of the United States. I thought it would be catastrophic if he did and that most people in the United States would recognise that to be the case.

“Latterly in my own country I did not imagine the Prime Minister, who was a vicar’s daughter, who said there were no circumstances in which she would call a snap election, deciding to do so. The Conservatives are in office, but they’re hardly in power. And the rest of the world is on tenterhooks.

“I think we’re in very uncertain times, I think we are in quite alarming times with the unpredictability of the American President.

“The one thing about the leaders of Russia and China is that they may behave in unpredictable ways but we are quite clear about what their broad intentions are in the West and that is hugely unsettling… for all people in a way that I never imagined.”

Dimbleby added: “If you’re a journalist you have to be glass half full and I’m generally half glass full, but I’ve never felt closer to being glass half empty.”

FCC supports HKJA letter to Carrie Lam over discriminatory policy against Hong Kong online media

The FCC supports this letter from Hong Kong Journalists Association to new Chief Executive Carrie Lam over the Hong Kong government’s continued discriminatory policy against online-only media.

Dear Mrs Lam,

We are writing to express our disappointment in your failure to honour your promise to stop the government’s discriminatory policy against online-only media.

Journalists working in those media have been barred from attending at least two of your important press events, namely your first press gathering in your official capacity as the Chief Executive on July 3 and your press conference to introduce your team of principal officials on June 21.

The ban has contravened the press freedom charter that you have signed at an election campaign forum hosted by us. In the charter, you pledged to grant online-only media equal rights and access to government press functions.

Those arrangements have run against an earlier judgement by the Ombudsman Office that found the present ban unreasonable. The Ombudsman has called for flexibility in the accreditation of online journalists before a policy review is completed.

We appreciated that you and your campaign team have engaged online media in your campaign. Online journalists have been invited to attend all of your press events during the election campaign. By doing so, you have proved the so-called space and security concern raised by the Government in defending their ban is mere excuse. To keep the unreasonable and unjust policy towards online media after you took office unchanged is unacceptable.

We urge you to accept the Ombudsman’s recommendations in particular its call for flexibility. Before the completion of policy review, online-only journalists should be granted access to government press functions on the production of membership cards from the Hong Kong Journalists Association and the Hong Kong Press Photographers Association.

We look forward to your prompt response and are happy to discuss with you on the matter.

Hong Kong Journalists Association
4 July 2017

Generation HK, a new Hong Kong nation and a collision course with Beijing

Journalist and author Ben Bland read a passage from his new book, Generation HK: Seeking Identity in China’s Shadow. Photo: Sarah Graham/FCC Journalist and author Ben Bland read a passage from his new book, Generation HK: Seeking Identity in China’s Shadow. Photo: Sarah Graham/FCC

Two days after Chinese President Xi Jinping gave a tough speech reasserting Beijing’s authority over Hong Kong, the spotlight fell on Generation HK as journalist Ben Bland talked about his book on the city’s disenfranchised youth.

During the July 3 club lunch, Bland, the South Asia correspondent for the Financial Times, defined Generation HK, a term he himself coined: “In basic terms it’s those who came of age since the handover… perhaps those who were 18 or younger in 1997.”

He explained that his book Generation HK: Seeking Identity in China’s Shadow, was a series of portraits of young people from varying backgrounds who have grown up in post-handover Hong Kong but feel little connection to the British colonial era, nor do they associate with China. Instead, he said, they are trying to carve out their own identity as Hongkongers, with some even imagining a new “Hong Kong nation”.

In a Q&A session after Bland had given a short reading from his book, he said fuelling this search for an identity was an element of frustration with inequality in terms of housing and employment in the city. Since 2014’s Occupy Central protests, he said, young Hongkongers had become more radical while at same time the Chinese government was increasingly stamping its authority on the city and that “as a result young people are pushing back harder.” Bland added that he believed there was a real risk that young people and Chinese government are on “a quite worrying collision course”.

When asked how much Generation HK could be racked up to the natural youthful impatience of all young people, and how much of it reflected the idea of being “spoilt children”, Bland said: “That’s one of the unanswered questions… At a time when, in many places in the world, people are worried about apathetic youth, these people have gone to exceeding lengths to fight for what they believe in.” He added that he didn’t believe these were “annoying young people who are inpatient”.

Watch Ben Bland discuss his new book, Generation HK: Seeking Identity in China’s Shadow

But he said he believed part of the push back against China happens because “China talks to Hong Kong young people on a different frequency”. Bland said the challenge for China was to engage young Hongkongers.

Bland revealed that writing the book had at times been challenging because wealthier young Hongkongers were reluctant to share their thoughts on universal suffrage and the Chinese government. He did manage to get one man from the “tycoon classes” to talk to him who told him that his British passport had felt meaningless. Bland said Hong Kong’s identity issues don’t just affect the lower classes, but reach across to business people too. But for those with money and business interests it is often easier to do a deal and put moral worries on the back burner.

Generation HK: Seeking Identity in China’s Shadow is published by Penguin Books and is available on Amazon Kindle.

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