The chairperson’s Grand Vision

Text by Kaman Cheung
Translated by Tong Cheung

  Unlike most other professionals,journalists  don't have a standardised look: they can be wearing flip-flops, they can be in business suits and carrying microphones, they can be talkative, and to put it in a common Cantonese saying, they can even be triangular, octagonal or come in all kinds of shapes.

  It means that to manage the Journalists Association – as a small body made up of such a diverse group of people – its chairperson has to possess an authoritative character, and an ability to manage difficult situations.

  Our new chairperson Sham Yee-lan –just like her predecessor Mak Yin-ting –has that ability, but since it is of little use when it comes to uniting reporters, Sham chose to start her chairmanship on a softer note instead: doing home re-furnishing.

Sham explained the design for renovation on a paper.

  “It all started [in the summer] when I saw a broken cupboard, with a door hanging right above our accountant Ah Bond,” Sham recalled.“ It looked like it was going to bash Bond’s head, so I thought,‘what’s wrong with the HKJA?’ We can't afford to get people injured here!”

  “Our office, albeit small, doesn’t have to look like a warehouse. It doesn’t have to be a place where hundreds of our members only stop by for a second and doesn’t bother to stay,” she said. It was from this thought that the association recently moved the office main entrance and the toilet’s door to better locations, and replaced some walls (legally, of course) with moveable panes to create space.

  “We can hold gatherings or even let[members] book our premises for their own activities,” Sham said.“ I am also thinking of adding a coffee machine and some snacks so reporters can hang out here. Other stuff will be put into storage and the documents will be digitised to save room.”Another project on Sham’s mind is a training course for reporters with less than three years of experience.

  Sham revealed that veteran journalists such as Lucy Chan Wai-yee, Mak, Hong Kong Economic Journal’s former chief editor Chan Pak-tim were invited to help as teacher-mentors. She hoped that the course would change people’s impression that fresh reporters are either reluctant to ask questions, or felt impolite if they did ask a question.

  On external affairs, the association is planning a trip to Myanmar next April, as the Southeast Asian nation had lifted a ban earlier this year and allowed its people to publish newspapers.

  A“ Friends of HKJA” programme is also under consideration for former or retired journalists to understand and support the association.

  There are also long-term plans on Sham’s mind, including a five-strong Investment Advisory Group to make
regular investment suggestions about the association’s financial reserves, as well as a plan to organise 30 school talks a year for students to understand journalism.

  “Sometimes people would ask whether reporters believe that the world should evolve around them,” Sham said. “They may not understand why we are critical about things, and they don’t know the problems behind our concerns, so we want to...explain.”

  Sham warned that press freedom was under unprecedented challenge in Hong Kong, and it was important for the HKJA to unite.

 “Since most of the local media seem to have similar political stances, the association must try to save our news industry [from self-censorship] by bringing up press freedom issues to an international level, instead of just issuing statements [for the local press to report on],” she stressed. The association will also act cautiously to safeguard Hong Kong’s civil liberties,Sham vowed.


1. Re-furnishing the association’s office:
Relocating its entrance, giving it a coffee machine, a snacks corner and a new toilet – making it a place for reporters’ to hang out.

2. Mentorship programme:
Reporters with less than three years experience will be mentored by veteran journalists.

3. Tour to Myanmar:

To study the development of journalism in the country after the ban ís lifted.

4. School Talks:

30 school talks a year for students to understand reporters’ work and the importance of press freedom.

5. “Friends of HKJA”:
A programme for former or retired journalists to understand and support the association.

6. Investment Advisory Group:

Set up a five-strong body, consisting of reporters and non-members to make regular investment suggestions on the association’s financial reserve.