A Toothless Chief Executive

Text By Chan Pik-ki
translated by Teddy Ng

  Bruce Lui, a senior journalism lecturer at Hong Kong Baptist University and a former veteran journalist specializing in China news, says it is outrageous that Indonesian authorities confiscated media passes of Hong Kong journalists, and ordered them out of the conference venue. He believes it is unreasonable of the APEC host committee to say the Hong Kong journalists posed a security risk to the Philippines president,and those officials have shown total disrespect for press freedom.

  Lui has covered many international conferences during his journalistic career,including the APEC summits in Mexico(2002), Yokohama (2010)and Hawaii(2011), but he never encountered any situation similar to the incident at Bali. He said it was common for journalists to ask questions loudly, and to enter restricted areas. The host committee would usually politely ask journalists to leave the restricted area.

  Lui and his cameraman entered the hotel where then Chinese President Jiang Zemin was staying when covering the APEC summit in Mexico. Local officials took away their press cards and asked them to leave the hotel. Afterwards, their media passes were returned, and they were given a warning by local officials. But Mr Lui said the local officials were polite. “Local officials should liaise with the journalists if they are dissatisfied with the way they cover the event. The officials can first give the journalists a verbal warning, and have no need to be ruthless.”

  The Hong Kong Journalists Association and the media organizations involved called on the Information Services Department to deal with the incident with Indonesian authorities. Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying only said he felt “sorry”that the journalists had not been given back their media passes. “The incident shows that our Chief Executive is powerless. If he only express our frustration verbally without taking concrete action, then he would definitely be ignored,” Mr Lui said.

  Mr Lui said Mr Leung should be able to demand assistance from the Chinese Foreign Ministry and raise a solemn protest, demanding the Indonesian authorities to investigate the incident and return the media passes to the journalists before the conclusion of the investigation. Hong Kong and the mainland government could consider boycotting conferences or bilateral meetings with Indonesia and the Philippines should the request be not accepted.