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FCC Seeks Clarification on How National Security Law Affects Media

The Foreign Correspondents’ Club, Hong Kong on July 7 noted the statement by Chief Executive Carrie Lam at a press conference before the Executive Council meeting in which she answered questions about the new National Security Law.

In answer to a question regarding letters from the FCC seeking a guarantee that journalists would be allowed to continue reporting on any topic under the law, the Chief Executive replied: “If the Foreign Correspondents’ Club or all reporters in Hong Kong can give me a 100 percent guarantee that they will not commit any offences under this piece of national legislation, then I can do the same.” The Chief Executive added that the new law “clearly defined” the four types of actions that are now unlawful.

The FCC stresses that it respects the laws of the Special Administrative Region. At the same time, the FCC has written to the Chief Executive seeking clarity on specific areas where the new law is vague and where terms are undefined, particularly regarding the press and freedom of speech. So far, our detailed questions remain unanswered.

For example, the FCC in its letter asked whether any specific topics are off limits for news reporting. Also, will journalists face legal risks for quoting government critics or critical voices? Will journalists face legal risk for their social media posts? Can journalists be held liable for activities or events, like attending conferences, outside of China or Hong Kong where critical views might be expressed?

As we have not received a detailed response to our specific and pertinent questions, we would again urge the Chief Executive to provide a more complete and comprehensive response to the concerns raised in our letter. We further would like to reissue our open invitation for the Chief Executive to give a luncheon address at the FCC and answer questions in an open forum, as a way to address journalists’ concerns created by the vagaries of the new law.

To operate within the new law, the media needs to know precisely what is permissible. We look forward to receiving clarification from the Chief Executive, as well as having her come to the FCC to speak.

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