Hong Kong Needs Law To Tackle “Hostility Against Police,” Says New Force Chief | Hong Kong
Hong Kong’s new police chief has called for a “fake news” law to tackle “hostility against the police,” in what analysts see as an indication of the next phase of the crackdown on the freedom of speech in the former British Overseas Territory.
“I understand that there are residents who are still hostile to us,” said Raymond Siu, 55, during his first press briefing since taking office on Friday. “In this regard, I have told my colleagues that a lot of this broken relationship and hostility against the police is due to fake news.”
He added: “There is no legal definition of fake news at the moment, but if there is legislation that could help us bring these people to justice, as law enforcement agencies we will we absolutely commend it. “
The public image of the Hong Kong police has been severely affected by pro-democracy protests in recent years. Since the summer of 2019, support ratings for the city’s once-well-respected police force have plummeted, according to the Hong Kong Public Opinion Research Institute.
But it was the “fake news” talk amid the recent controversial shutdown of one of the city’s most popular newspapers, Apple Daily, that has alarmed critics. They say this Trump-era label could be used to further muzzle dissent.
“The authorities are just adding more weapons to their pockets in order to quell dissent,” said Chris Yeung, veteran journalist and former chairman of the Hong Kong Journalists Association. “It seems very likely that this fake news bill will be put on the agenda for the next legislative session.”
Willy Lam of the Center for China Studies at the Chinese University of Hong Kong is concerned that following the shutdown of Apple Daily this week, some less powerful and resourceful media may be the next target of an ongoing crackdown on freedom of expression.
“The authorities have borrowed what mainland China is doing to penalize Internet users critical of the government,” he said. “Journalism and independent media are going through difficult times in Hong Kong, and things could get worse. “
Talking about “fake news” is not a new trend in Asia. In recent years, countries like Malaysia, Singapore and Cambodia have all passed laws to prevent what authorities consider “false information.” But while these governments all argued that such a law was necessary, they also raised fears of restrictions on free speech.
In Hong Kong, the city’s chief executive, Carrie Lam, first raised the idea of ”fake news” legislation in February, when she complained that disinformation has been on the rise since then. the mass protests of 2019 and the Covid-19 health crisis of last year.
Last month, Lam again said she was considering introducing a “fake news” law to prevent “disinformation, hate and lies.” Shortly after the remark, the police sent a glossy brochure titled “Know the Facts: Rumors and Lies Can Never Be Right” to a few Hong Kong-based newsrooms. It was accompanied by a letter to the editors warning against “malicious and slanderous attacks” on the police.
In response to Lam’s remark, the International Federation of Journalists, a Brussels-based federation of media unions, said in a statement: “International experience has shown the problematic nature of such legislation, which further confuses media workers. governments and courts in baseless cases and ultimately becomes a bigger challenge for democracies in general.