Hong Kong’s security chief on Wednesday called on the city’s main press association to disclose to the public who its members work for and how many of them are students, a day after he complained of school intrusion.
Security Secretary Chris Tang’s remarks after Beijing enacted a comprehensive national security law on the former British colony last year could deepen concerns about a crackdown on civil society in the Asian financial center.
Tang in an interview with a pro-Beijing newspaper Ta kung pao pPublished on Tuesday, the Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA) said students are infiltrating schools to recruit as journalists.
The HKJA, in Tang’s response, did not specifically mention the infiltration allegations but said it had 486 members as of Wednesday and 56 of them were students. It does not disclose who its members work for.
Tang defended his remarks on Wednesday, saying he was expressing “the suspicions of many in society” about the press association.
“I believe if HKJA members disclose information to the public, their names will be clear,” he told reporters outside the Tang city legislature, detailing who HKJA members work for.
The media industry has changed dramatically since the Beijing Security Act was enacted last year.
Media tycoon Jimmy Lai, a fierce critic of Beijing, is in jail awaiting trial on national security charges. His pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily Stopped after police raids and arrests of executives, including its chief editor.
Numerous civic groups and opposition parties have called off the operation in the past year, with some of its members arrested and jailed.
Hong Kong’s largest professional teachers’ union broke up this month after criticism of China’s state media for “politicizing” education.
The security law, imposed after months of violent pro-democracy protests, punishes Beijing with widespread destructiveness, isolation, collusion with foreign forces and incarcerated terrorism.
The Hong Kong government has repeatedly said the law only targets a small group of “troublemakers” and that all law enforcement action against individuals or groups “has nothing to do with their political position or background.”
Hong Kong’s once prosperous media sector and vibrant civil society have long been a feature of the city, dating back to 1997 under Chinese rule and promising widespread independence on the mainland.