Reporters Without Borders representative denied entry to Hong Kong

Photo: Tom Grundy/HKFP.

This report was written by Tom Grundy and originally published in Hong Kong Free Press (HKFP) on April 10, 2024. An edited version is published below as part of a content partnership agreement with HKFP.

A representative for Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has been denied entry to Hong Kong after she was detained, searched and questioned for six hours at the airport on April 10, 2024, according to the French media freedom NGO.

Taipei-based Advocacy Officer Aleksandra Bielakowska was searched three times and questioned by immigration officials for six hours at the city’s international airport. She was then deported.

In a statement following the incident, RSF said:

This action by the Hong Kong authorities, unprecedented for RSF, marks a new decline in the already poor press freedom climate in the territory.

HKFP has seen the denial of entry document.

In response to HKFP, an Immigration Department (ImmD) spokesperson said it “does not comment on individual cases. ImmD acts in accordance with the laws and policies in handling each immigration case.”

Bielakowska was set to link up with Asia-Pacific Bureau Director Cédric Alviani to meet journalists and monitor a hearing of the national security trial involving media tycoon Jimmy Lai.

The national security trial against Lai began on December 18 2023. The 76-year-old founder of the defunct independent newspaper Apple Daily was accused of conspiring to collude with foreign forces under the Beijing-imposed National Security Law (NSL) and taking part in a conspiracy to publish “seditious” material under the city’s colonial-era sedition law. If convicted, he faces life in prison.

In the statement, RSF’s Director of Campaigns Rebecca Vincent said the move was “unprecedented” compared to any other territory, given that her colleague was “simply trying to do her job…”. The campaigner said:

We have never experienced such blatant efforts by authorities to evade scrutiny of court proceedings in any country, which further highlights the ludicrous nature of the case against Jimmy Lai, and the dire erosion of press freedom and the rule of law in Hong Kong. We demand an immediate explanation from the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and a guarantee that our representatives can return to the territory safely to monitor the remainder of Lai’s trial, which cannot take place in darkness. The world must know what is happening in Hong Kong, which has implications for global press freedom.

It is the first time an RSF staffer has been denied entry to the territory.

Press freedom rankings

Hong Kong has plummeted in international press freedom indices since the onset of the security law. Watchdogs cite the arrest of journalists, raids on newsrooms and the closure of around 10 media outlets, including Apple DailyStand News and Citizen News. Over 1,000 journalists have lost their jobs, whilst many have emigrated. Meanwhile, the city’s government-funded broadcaster RTHK has adopted new editorial guidelines, purged its archives and axed news and satirical shows.

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