When opposing values confront each other

Lam Tsz-ho, a TV journalist (Translated by Sherry Lee & Yin-ting Mak)

As one of three reporters beaten up by police, I originally wanted to write an article to rebut the investigation report produced by the authorities in Xinjiang, pointing out its contradictions and inconsistencies.

But it is not difficult for anyone with reasonable thinking faculties and those who have grasped the facts to see the authorities' absurdities and the weakness of its case.

After giving this due consideration I felt there was no need for me to dwell on them. However, I think what we should look into is what impact the incident has had on Hong Kong journalists as well as Hong Kong people at large.

Over the past two months, there were several incidents involving Hong Kong journalists on the mainland - from being framed by mainland security police for being allegedly in possession of drugs, to being beaten up by police. Both incidents angered Hong Kong people.

The latest incident involved Xinjiang police beating up reporters, and its authorities subsequently accusing the reporters of inciting the protesters. This shows that the regime, which ‘maintains stability' by beating journalists and banning reporting, is lying to the world. And for them, it is not a sin, but even a virtue – a virtue that is to be in the right and has a Chinese character.

The reason that the incident has made big waves is that it has challenged one of Hong Kong people's core values – freedom of information and freedom of the media. To some extent, it reminded Hong Kong people that there is a great gulf of values between Hong Kong and the mainland although it has been twelve years since the handover.

On September 8th, Xinjiang press authorities issued its ‘inciting protestors' statement. On the same day the central government formally allowed Hong Kong to issue national bonds. It is interesting to watch the two stories being broadcast in the same television news time slot. Whenever Hong Kong people's values come under attack, no matter what the central government does to Hong Kong – relaxing CEPA restrictions, expanding Individual Travel Permit to more cities in mainland, making Hong Kong a clearing center for the Renminbi and becoming a bond center, et cetera, local people will only treat such policies as bribes. On the Internet, some people even viewed the bond issuing offer as an insult to Hong Kong. In other words, the actions of the Xinjiang authorities did not merely mean a slap to the face of Hong Kong people, their chief executive, and the Hong Kong delegates of the National People Congress who expressed support for the local media but also indirectly put Hong Kong and the central government of China in opposing camps.

Of greater concern is the onslaught against the Hong Kong media and Hong Kong reporters on the Internet where forums are treasured for their tolerance and practice of freedom of expression. After the Xinjiang authorities' stand, various “statements” appeared in these forums, such as claims that “news coverage cannot override law and order”, “reporters are egoists” and “making a mountain out of a molehill.” There were even demands that Hong Kong media “abide by Mainland rules when covering news in China.”

It is not difficult to rebut such utterances. Of course law and order should not be undermined by anyone, reporters included. By the same token the authorities cannot use the excuse of maintaining stability in order to obstruct or impede the reporting of facts. This is one case in point.

We have idea whether these Internet comments are genuine views of Hong Kong people or the products of the “fifty cents clan” – those people notorious for “cleaning” blogs and “harmonizing” the internet. If it is this “clan” trying to distort the views of the young generation of Hong Kong people, it may not be difficult to deal with. The “virus” of distorted views has yet to get into the blood steam of our body. We can enhance our immunity by strengthening our critical minds. However, it will be more dangerous to Hong Kong if these are the views of Hong Kong people because it means local people do not treasure the freedoms we have fought so hard for. We may therefore become a vivid case of the Chinese proverb “live in hardship and worries but die in comfort”.