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Human Rights Press Awards: Bringing light to the darkest of stories

The Human Rights Press Awards are run by the FCC, Amnesty International Hong Kong and the Hong Kong Journalists Association. The 22nd annual awards attracted a record 414 entries and the awards ceremony was held at the Club on May 12. Reporting by Sue Brattle & Vicky Kung.

Winning lineup: Reporters and photographers who won awards, and the judges who reviewed their work Winning lineup: Reporters and photographers who won awards, and the judges who reviewed their work.

The Correspondent spoke to six winners about their work and what winning a Human Rights Press Award means to them:

Text & Print – Spot News (English)

Sam Jahan, a correspondent at Agence France Presse, is a member of the team that won for Unwanted in Myanmar, Unwelcome in Bangladesh:

“Every recognition is pleasant. I’m feeling simultaneously excited and emotional. I own the Rohingya crisis as a reporter following my years of intensified work on it. I was ill when violence erupted in Rakhine but I knew it was my call. I can’t thank my wife Jasmin and friend Emrul enough for watching my back in the danger zone. I went through different shades of emotions, saw deaths and signs of inhumane brutality. I truly want to believe that my works have brought at least some meaningful changes to the lives of the unfortunate and stateless human beings.”

Winner: Staring at death by Indranil Mukherjee Winner: Staring at death by Indranil Mukherjee.

Text & Print, Commentary (English)

Julia Wallace, a freelancer, won for her piece Cambodia’s Crackdown: What happens when an autocrat shutters a newspaper.

“Often, discussions of press freedom focus on journalists and their travails, but far more important are our sources. One of the most striking things about working in Cambodia is how willing people are to talk to the media and tell their stories. So far this still exists to an almost amazing extent, but the ongoing crackdown on political dissent and free expression has shown no signs of abating, and it’s unclear whether the gains of the past 25 years will be partially preserved or lost forever. For this reason, I’m very grateful for the Human Rights Press Awards for helping give this story wider exposure.”

Multimedia (English)

Clément Bürge, a member of the Wall Street Journal team that won for Twelve Days in Xinjiang: How China’s surveillance state overwhelms daily life:

“We wanted to see what it was like to live in a place where surveillance equipment was being widely deployed. What we discovered was so much more extensive than we’d imagined. Facial scanners and phone scanners were everywhere. The government and Chinese artificial-intelligence companies have turned the region into a laboratory. This award is special. Telling a strong story using photos, video and text is technically challenging, even more when you’re navigating armies of police and security cameras. We’ve heard the surveillance system continues to expand and be refined, and that the number of Uighurs being sent to so-called re-education camps has exploded. We’ve also heard the Chinese government is making it even harder for foreign media to work in Xinjiang since our story was published.”

Radio & Audio (Chinese)
Emily Chan Miu-ling of RTHK, a Hong Kong radio journalist based in Beijing, won for
Mainland to tighten grip on Protestant churches:

“I arrived one full hour before my interview with an elder of a family church in Beijing,” said Chan. “And the entrance was already surrounded by more than a dozen policemen, together with undercover agents and two police cars. I really didn’t expect this level of security.” Chan intends to continue reporting from mainland China.“Hong Kong journalists have less visa and reporting restrictions compared to our international and mainland counterparts,” she said. “If we step back when the authorities crack down on press freedom, who else can cover human rights issues on mainland China? I am really grateful that we have the Human Rights Press Awards to recognise what journalists are doing on the frontline. It encourages us and it keeps us going.”

Text & Print – Features (Chinese)
Olivia Cheng Tsz-yu, a
Ming Pao Weekly reporter, won for The invisible wall: Hong Kong’s refugees.

Cheng first came into contact with an immigration detainee – Mr. K – while working on a news assignment about refugees and torture claimants in Hong Kong. “There were two things I remember. First was Mr. K’s expression. He spoke with such intensity of emotion that I could see the blood vessels in his eyes. Second was how detainees started bellowing when they saw our drone hovering above the windows of their detention centre. They desperately want people from the outside to notice them.” She thanked the Human Rights Press Awards for giving her a pat on the back. “We have to step on other people’s suffering to give light to these stories. Hong Kong needs to look beyond people’s complexion to perceive their wounds.”

Text & Print – Spot News (Chinese)

Annie Zhang Jieping, Initium Media’s former editor-in-chief, won for Exclusive: Liu Xiabo’s final gift to wife Liu Xia – his last manuscript fully revealed.

“My feelings were mixed when I learnt that I was given the Human Rights Press Award,” said Annie Zhang, who broke the story about the last handwritten letter that Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Liu Xiaobo wrote to his wife Liu Xia on his deathbed.“I was just a middleman. This friend of Liu Xiaobo called me soon after Liu passed away and told me the full story to that letter.” What touched Zhang most about the letter was that Liu wrote it in his capacity of a “poet”, not a political figure. “It’s full of love. The letter was filled with emotions for a beloved.” Zhang thinks the letter reinstated Liu as a human. “It makes me angry that authorities would reduce him to mere flesh and bones. He’s not just a body.”

22nd Human Rights Press Awards winners

Text & Print – Spot News (English)


Unwanted in Myanmar, unwelcome in Bangladesh

Sam Jahan, Nick Perry, Redwan Ahmed and Claire Cozens of AFP


Chinese billionaire abducted from Hong Kong

Ben Bland, Jamil Anderlini, Gloria Cheung and Lucy Hornby of Financial Times

Blood flowed in the streets: Refugees from one Rohingya hamlet recount days of horror


Everyone has parents but us

Annie Gowen of The Washington Post

Text & Print – Features (English)


This is what a 21st century surveillance state looks like

Megha Rajagopalan of BuzzFeed News


China’s Uighurs

Gerry Shih of The Associated Press

Myanmar’s army is tormenting Muslims with a brutal rape campaign

Patrick Winn and Muktadir Rashid of Public Radio International

Text & Print – Commentary (English)


Cambodia’s Crackdown: What happens when an  autocrat shutters a newspaper

Julia Wallace of The Nation


A deepening crisis The value of a life

Repatriation not enough

Oliver Slow and Thomas Kean of Frontier Myanmar

Thailand’s monarchy: where does love end and dread begin?

Michael Peel of Financial Times

Multimedia (English)


Twelve Days in Xinjiang: How China’s surveillance state overwhelms daily life

Josh Chin, Clément Bürge and Giulia Marchi of The Wall Street Journal


Confiscation crusaders try to save Philippine paradise

Karl Malakunas of AFP

Television & Video (English)


Murder on campus

Secunder Kermani of BBC News, “Our World”


101 East: The Rohingya exodus

Drew Ambrose of Al Jazeera English

The Kill List

Aurora Almendral and Ed Ou of NBC Left Field

Radio & Audio (English)


How the United Nations in Myanmar failed the Rohingya

Jonah Fisher of BBC News

Photography – Spot News


Staring at Death

Indranil Mukherjee of AFP


Inside and outside the police car

Kyle Lam of HK01

Photography – Features


Rohingya Crisis

Tomas Munita of The New York Times


Mining in Myanmar

Adam Dean of TIME Magazine

Exchange health for economic miracle: Story of Samsung workers with cancer
Li Chak Tung of HK01

Tertiary – Text (English)


Out of Sight, Out of Mind

Fiona Chan, Angela Siu, Kristy Tong, Doris Yu, Crystal Wu, Elaine Ng, Marilyn Ma, Grace Liyang and Chloe Kwan of Varsity, CUHK

Text & Print – Spot News (Chinese)

Winner: Exclusive: Liu Xiaobo’s final gift to wife Liu Xia – his last manuscript fully revealed
Annie Zhang of Initium Media

Merit: [HK01 survey] Scholars shocked to find 33% primary school SEN students victims of bullying
Liu Kit Yin of HK01

Merit: Li Wangling speaks out five years after activist Li Wangyang’s death
Lin Ying of Ming Pao

Text & Print – Features (Chinese)

Winner: The invisible wall: Hong Kong’s refugees
Cheng Tsz Yu of Ming Pao Weekly

Merit: Lamentations of the homeless: The people without a place to be
Kim Chan Ping Ting of The News Lens

Merit: Covered wounds: Youth face sexual abuse in resettlement homes
Chien Yung Ta of The Reporter

Text & Print – Commentary (Chinese)

Winner: In the name of national security
To Yiu Ming of Ming Pao

Merit: European Journalist of the Year Can Dündar: A lifelong pursuit for truth
Chinghua Tsai of Opinions@CommonWealth

Merit: Joint checkpoints: How they are done under British and French law
Alvin Lum of CitizenNews

Multimedia (Chinese)

Winner: Legal Records of Civil Disobedience
Ng Yuen Ying of CitizenNews

Merit: Data visualized: The impact of Beijing’s eviction of the ‘low-end population’
Danielle Wang, Victoria Jin and Xu Xiaotong of Initium Media

Merit: One year into the Philippines’ war on drugs
Gary Lo of HK01

Television & Video (Chinese)

Winner: Sunday Report: Liu Xiaobo
Choi Chin Hung, Kris, Chiu Chun Ting and Diana Lin of Television Broadcasts Limited

Merit: The Redress
Wong Wai Yu, Jovy of Hong Kong i-CABLE News, China Desk

Merit:  The investment of sweat and blood
Cheng Sze Sze of Hong Kong Connection, RTHK

Radio & Audio (Chinese)

Winner: Mainland to tighten grip on protestant churches
Emily Chan Miu Ling of RTHK

Merit: Keeping the faith – Xu Zhiyong’s first interview after his release from prison
Lam Hon Shan of RTHK

Merit: “Miss You”— the second anniversary of the 709 incident
Lam Hon Shan of RTHK

Tertiary – Text (Chinese)

Winner: Elegy of the iPhone: Unions and management conspire against workers
He Ji Shu, Ko Chung Lai and Lo Wai Ting of U-Beat Magazine, CUHK

Merit: 28th Anniversary series for the June 4 Tiananmen Square massacre
Chong Hiu Tung of CitizenNews

Merit: Popularising teaching in sign language: Let deaf students understand
Mok Wing Tung and Lui Wing Yiu of U-Beat Magazine, CUHK

Tertiary – Radio, Television & Video (Chinese)

Winner: Students stand in solidarity with the workers
Lam Sum Yi, Hui Lee Ha, Chan Tsz Ki and Liu Dicksa Isabelle of U-Beat Magazine, CUHK

Merit: Growing up with homosexual parents
LEE Tsz Ying and Lau Tsz Lam of Broadcast News Network, HKBU

Merit: The plight of the cleaners
Chan On Ki, Lam Oi Yee, Leung Yuk Man, Mak Tsun Ho and Mok Wing Tung of U-Beat Magazine, CUHK

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