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Hong Kong bars some journalists from handover anniversary celebrations

A woman walks past a sculpture marking the 25th anniversary of the handover of Hong Kong to China (Kin Cheung/AP)
A woman walks past a sculpture marking the 25th anniversary of the handover of Hong Kong to China (Kin Cheung/AP)

Hong Kong authorities, citing “security reasons”, have barred more than 10 journalists from covering events and ceremonies this week marking the 25th anniversary of the region’s return to China, according to the Hong Kong Journalists Association.

The journalists represent at least seven media outlets, including international news agencies Reuters and Agence France-Presse along with others from Hong Kong, the association said in a statement posted online late on Tuesday.

“The authorities have made ad hoc and narrow interview arrangements at this important juncture and have put forth vague grounds for refusal, seriously undermining the freedom of the press in Hong Kong,” the statement read.

The Hong Kong outlets affected include the English-language South China Morning Post, and Chinese-language newspaper Ming Pao as well as online news outlet HK01, the association said.

Hong Kong was returned to Chinese rule on July 1 1997.(Kin Cheung/AP)

The South China Morning Post (SCMP) said in a news report that one of its photographers had been rejected, with no reason given.

Reuters, Ming Pao and HK01 did not immediately comment. An SCMP spokesman declined to comment, as did Agence France-Presse.

The affected media organisations were invited to send other journalists to cover the event, but the replacements must also meet quarantine and testing requirements, according to the journalist association’s statement.

Journalists covering the events must have daily Covid-19 nucleic acid tests starting last Sunday and must stay in a quarantine hotel from Wednesday.

The Information Services Department, which sent out the initial invitations to media outlets to register to cover the event, declined to provide information on how many journalists were given accreditation and also did not comment on an SCMP news report that said one of its own photographers had been barred from the event.

Hong Kong authorities have barred some journalists from events and ceremonies marking the 25th anniversary of the region’s return to China for ‘security reasons’ (Kin Cheung/AP)

“The government is striking a balance as far as possible between the need of media work and security requirements,” the Information Services Department said in a statement. “We will not comment on the accreditation outcome of individual organisations and persons.”

The rejections came as Hong Kong police confirmed that Chinese President Xi Jinping will visit the city for the anniversary of the former British colony’s return to Chinese rule on July 1 1997.

Mr Xi’s visit will be his first trip outside mainland China since the coronavirus pandemic took hold about two-and-a-half years ago. Police have announced a raft of security measures, including road closures and a no-fly zone.