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Hong Kong protests over Beijing's grip on media

Anger over sacking of outspoken journalist

<p>Protesters decry dismissal of radio journalist Lee Wai-ling in Hong Kong </p>

Protesters decry dismissal of radio journalist Lee Wai-ling in Hong Kong 

  • Bo Fan, Hong Kong
  • Hong Kong
  • February 24, 2014
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Thousands of journalists and press freedom advocates demonstrated in Hong Kong on Sunday following the sacking of an outspoken radio commentator, a move protestors claim signals growing suppression of the media.

Some 6,000 people joined the march to the Chief Executive’s Office. “I haven’t seen so bad a situation since I joined this field 30 years ago,” said Sham Yee-lan, president of the Hong Kong Journalists Association. “The trend of suppression is clear. Someone wants to control the media and punish disobedient reporters.”

Lee Wai-ling, a host at Commercial Radio,  was sacked earlier this month in what the station decsribed as a shake-up of staff. Lee claimed however that the move was a bid by the management to ensure its broadcasting license was renewed.

Lee, who has been critical of the government, said she had received a warning from “a friend of the chief executive,” whose name she did not reveal. The same radio station sacked two outspoken commentators a decade ago, also rumored to be linked to license renewal.

 “The recent incidents were not isolated cases,” said Shiu Ka-chun, a lecturer who joined the rally. “There is invisible hand deterring people from speaking up while encouraging collective lies. We are here today to oppose the arrival of a lying era.”

In January, the founder of a free Chinese newspaper, AM730, said advertisers, the majority of whom are mainland, were pulling out due to the paper’s critical line on Beijing.

A thriving free media arena, which continued after Britain handed back rule of Hong Kong to China in 1997 has been steadily eroded.

Last week a publisher in Hong Kong who had been preparing to publish a book by exiled Chinese writer Yu Jie which criticized Chinese premier Xi Jinping received a threatening phone call warning him against the project. Prior to this another Hong Kong publisher who had been planning to release the book was arrested when he arrived in China.

Observers say the intimidation of the two publishers reflects mainland China’s repressive influence over the self-administered territory.

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