China’s Crackdown Put 1,500+ Hong Kong Journalists Out of Work

Bloomberg Quicktake: Now published this video item, entitled “China’s Crackdown Put 1,500+ Hong Kong Journalists Out of Work” – below is their description.

Veteran journalist Ronson Chan lost his job as pro-democracy Stand News shuttered after police arrested editors, former board members and froze its assets. Chan’s home was also searched and he is worried he will be the next target, if there are next wave of arrests.

At least 1,562 Hong Kong civil society jobs have been lost so far to the government’s crackdown on dissent under a Beijing-imposed national security law, according to data compiled by Bloomberg News drawn from scores of phone calls and emails to impacted parties, as well as local news reports. More than 60 organizations including media companies, trade unions, political bodies, and religious and human rights groups have disbanded in the past year, under intense pressure from national security police.

“This has a massive cost that cannot easily be expressed in numbers,” Lokman Tsui, a former journalism professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, said by email. “I see an entire generation of young people wondering what the future for independent, critical reporting in Hong Kong looks like,” he said.

Many of the newly unemployed have struggled to find jobs or were forced to change professions, according to interviews with a dozen people who lost their jobs. Some have become taxi drivers or food delivery workers, while one person opened a fast food restaurant. A former Apple Daily writer said applicants to his consultancy firm often ask if he’d be arrested, too. Others, quit the city entirely.

Those who leave Hong Kong often face language barriers while those who stay must deal with the stigma of a national security probe, said Ronson Chan, chairman of the Hong Kong Journalists Association.

“I don’t think it is easy for them to move forward, even if they emigrate,” he said. “I would describe it as a disastrous situation.”

In an emailed statement responding to questions, the Hong Kong government said the security law had “restored stability and increased the confidence in Hong Kong, thereby allowing the city to resume its normal operation and return to the path of development.”

“In 2021, the number of business operations in Hong Kong with parent companies outside Hong Kong and the number of start-ups in Hong Kong both reached record highs,” the government statement added. “All these will also contribute to additional job opportunities for the people of Hong Kong.”

The city’s once-freewheeling media scene has suffered the most, accounting for some 1,115 — or 71% — of job losses, including full-time and part-time positions, according to data complied by Bloomberg News. That means roughly 20% of media workers for Chinese-language organizations in the city have lost their jobs in the past 12 months.

Stand News, which chronicled the pro-democracy protests in 2019, announced last month it would immediately close and lay off all staff, after national security police raided the online portal’s newsroom. That cost 60 jobs, according to Chan. Less than a week later, Citizen News shuttered amid security fears, losing another 40 positions.

The latest closures came six months after the shutdown of Apple Daily and its parent company, Next Digital Ltd., stripped the city of some 1,000 jobs.

The HKJA has distributed over HK$356,700 ($45,755) in aid to 654 former journalists over a seven-week period last summer, while some 150 former employees of Next Digital have sought to recoup lost wages from the Labor Department, it confirmed in a written response to Bloomberg News.

Chan, the HKJA chairman who lost his job as a reporter when Stand News fell, said he already missed being a journalist. “But you need to accept the things you have to do may not be the things you want to do,” he added.

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