This is Reporters Without Borders' harsh assessment of Hong Kong's Chief Executive. She is accused of having pushed the pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily to closure. The city's leader is also criticised by hi-tech giants. Pro-democracy groups disintegrate under security laws.
Hong Kong (AsiaNews) - A "predator of press freedom": This is how Reporters Without Borders (RSF) views Carrie Lam. The humanitarian organisation has included the city's chief executive in its list of 37 heads of state and government accused of repressing freedom of information.
In this special annual ranking, Lam is in the company of Chinese President Xi Jinping, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, Russian "czar" Vladimir Putin, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, among others.
Rsf describes Lam as a "puppet" of Xi's, committed to eliminating citizen symbols of press freedom. The group cites the freezing of assets and the arrest of Apple Daily executives, actions that led to the closure of the pro-democracy newspaper founded by tycoon Jimmy Lai. Another criticism is that of having imposed a system of self-censorship on RTHK, the local public network.
Lam is also in the crosshairs of hi-tech giants. Yesterday, a consortium of technology firms threatened to block their services and investments in Hong Kong if the local executive passed a controversial data protection law. Companies such as Google, Facebook and Twitter have expressed concern for their employees in the city, who would face criminal charges under the new rules.
The bill would see fines of up to HK million (about €110,000) and a maximum of five years in prison for anyone who reveals other people's personal data without permission - with the intention of threatening or intimidating them. Lam responded today that all concerns about the measure will disappear once it takes effect, as was the case with the National Security Act.
However, Beijing's draconian legislation to stifle the democracy movement continues to claim victims. In the past two weeks, as reported by the Hong Kong Free Press, eight pro-democracy groups have disbanded, the latest being the Progressive Lawyers Group, which has not given a reason for its decision.
Groups such as the Neo Democrats and Community Sha Tin stressed that their closure was due to concerns about the Security Act and the changing political climate in Hong Kong. The most egregious case of dissolution so far has been that of Demosisto, Joshua Wong's pro-democracy party, which dissolved soon after the measure was adopted on 30 June 2020.