An international press freedom watchdog accused Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam of violating the city’s press freedom, calling it a “predatory” in a report released Monday.
The Reporters Without Borders (RSF) report came as the chief executive claimed that Beijing’s national security law had improved press freedom in its first year of implementation.
Lam was included in a “blacklist” of 37 world leaders who the group said had “massively cracked down on press freedom.”
“The Managing Director of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region since 2017, Lam has proven to be the puppet of Chinese President Xi Jinping, and now openly supports his predatory policy towards the media,” the report read.
He cited the shutdown of the city’s largest pro-democracy news organization Apple Daily last month and the detention of founder Jimmy Lai and veteran Democrat Claudia Mo. Apple Daily was forced to shut down last month after that the authorities arrested five executives and froze the company’s accounts.
“Carrie Lam has relentlessly targeted the symbols of press freedom in Hong Kong,” added the Paris-based watchdog.
The report also accuses Lam of launching a “full-fledged campaign of intimidation” against the public broadcaster RTHK. Since March, the broadcaster has canceled news shows, laid off staff and set up a new editorial board overseen by broadcast director Patrick Li, a former bureaucrat with no journalistic experience.
Lam was one of the first two women included on the list, which has been compiled for two decades.
“Each of these predators has their own style. Some impose a reign of terror by issuing irrational and paranoid orders. Others are adopting a carefully constructed strategy on the basis of draconian laws, ”RSF Secretary General Christophe Deloire said of the report.
“A major challenge now is for these predators to pay the highest possible price for their oppressive behavior. We must not let their methods become the new normal. “
Chinese leader Xi Jinping and Russian Vladimir Putin were also on the list, along with Belarusian Alexander Lukashenko and Syrian Bashar al-Assad.
RSF’s report came as Lam said press freedom in Hong Kong was enhanced by the National Security Act during an opening speech at a legal forum to celebrate the legislation on Monday.
“The media and the general public exercise their right to monitor the work of government and the freedom to criticize policies every day, while the foreign media continuously disseminate information about the national security law, interviewing people with various positions. without any interference, ”Lam said.
She added that an increase in the number of local, online and international media organizations officially registered with the government was a sign of the city’s healthy press freedom.
Speaking at the same forum, Justice Secretary Teresa Cheng said press freedom would be protected if journalists “acted in good faith.”
The National Security Law Legal Forum, hosted by the Justice Department on Monday, brought together key local and central officials as well as legal commentators.
International rights groups say the authorities used the Beijing-imposed security law to quell political dissent and seriously undermine Hong Kong’s human rights within a year of its entry into force.