Press freedom group says representative denied entry to Hong Kong

Reporters Without Borders says advocacy officer detained for six hours before being deported.

Hong Kong's spot in press freedom rankings has plunged since the introduction of a Beijing-drafted national security law [Tyrone Siu/Reuters]

A representative for Reporters Without Borders (RSF) was denied entry to Hong Kong after being detained for six hours, searched and questioned, the press freedom organisation has said.

Aleksandra Bielakowska, an advocacy officer based in Taiwan, was refused entry and deported on Wednesday after travelling to the city to observe the trial of media tycoon Jimmy Lai, RSF said in a statement.

Rebecca Vincent, RSF’s director of campaigns, said the group was “appalled” at the treatment of their colleague.

“We have never experienced such blatant efforts by authorities to evade scrutiny of court proceedings in any country, which further highlights the ludicrous nature of the case against Jimmy Lai, and the dire erosion of press freedom and the rule of law in Hong Kong,” Vincent said.

“We demand an immediate explanation from the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and a guarantee that our representatives can return to the territory safely to monitor the remainder of Lai’s trial, which cannot take place in darkness. The world must know what is happening in Hong Kong, which has implications for global press freedom.”

Hong Kong’s immigration department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Lai, the founder of the shuttered Apple Daily pro-democracy tabloid, has been on trial since February on charges brought under a sweeping national security law imposed by Beijing in 2020.

The 76-year-old publisher’s prosecution has been widely condemned by rights groups as a mark of the city’s declining rights and freedoms under Beijing’s tightening control of the former British colony.

Hong Kong last month passed more national security legislation targeting vaguely-defined offences of treason, insurrection, espionage, sabotage and external interference, in a move widely expected to further narrow the space for dissent.

Hong Kong, once known for having one of the freest media landscapes in Asia, has severely curtailed the work of journalists in recent years.

Besides Apple Daily, pro-democracy outlets Stand News and Citizens’ Radio were forced to shut down amid the national security crackdown.

Radio Free Asia, which is part-funded by the US government, last month announced the closure of its Hong Kong office, citing concerns for the safety of its staff.

In RSF’s 2023 press freedom index, Hong Kong ranked 140th out of 180 countries and territories, down from 73 in 2019.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies