Hong Kong’s Foreign Correspondents’ Club (FCC) has suspended its Human Rights Press Awards this year for fear of violating national security laws. The award has been running for more than a quarter of a century. It is among the oldest and most prestigious journalism awards in Asia.
In a statement released on Monday, April 25, Foreign Correspondents’ Club president Keith Richburg said that the club decided to cancel the awards. The reason given was because Hong Kong journalists have been operating under new “red lines” on what is and is not allowed for the past two years since the security law went into effect. Moreover, Richburg said there are still significant areas of uncertainty, and they do not want to violate the law unintentionally.
Richburg, the current head of the University of Hong Kong’s journalism school and formerly a veteran Washington Post journalist said that was a very tough decision to reach. However, the club could not find a feasible way to ensure it did not breach the law.
According to the minutes of a meeting seen by Reuters, Richburg told the club’s press freedom committee in advance that the decision was made to protect the club’s staff and members from legal risks.
According to Bloomberg, some members of the club’s press freedom committee have resigned to protest the decision.
In June 2020, Hong Kong imposed national security laws, which critics say have put the once self-ruled city’s freedoms at risk. The law punishes vaguely worded acts such as secession, subversion, terrorism, and collusion with foreign forces with up to life in prison.
Several Hong Kong pro-democracy media outlets, such as Citizen News, Apple Daily, and Stand News, were forced to shut down after the law was passed.