Beijing officials have told foreign media outlets to “inject positive energy” into their reporting on Hong Kong's planned changes to extradition laws.
The Office of the Commissioner of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it held a briefing in the SAR on Tuesday with reporters and bosses from Reuters, Kyodo News, the Financial Times, CNN and CNBC.
In a statement posted on its website, the office said its deputy commissioner, Song Ru'an, advised the foreign journalists to be "fair, balanced and objective", in order to improve people's understanding of the SAR, while also "injecting positive energy" into their reports on the issue.
The statement said Song also told them that the central government fully supports the planned amendments because they are "legal, necessary and urgent" to safeguard justice and perfect the rule of law in Hong Kong.
One of the journalists who attended the session, James Pomfret from Reuters, quoted Song as saying that it was "highly deplorable" that foreign governments and "external forces" had weighed in on the matter.
Responding to the news, the outgoing president of the Hong Kong Foreign Correspondents' Club, Florence de Changy, said: "It is not in the tradition of western media to be told what to write or what tone to adopt by any government. We have invited the Chinese authorities to present their views at the FCC and I hope they will do it in due time."
Former Democratic Party chairwoman and veteran journalist Emily Lau described the media briefing as "preposterous".
"I'm sure they have said similar things to local journalists, and in some cases, maybe it worked. It is very sad. I want to call on all journalists ... not to listen to the Chinese government when they give such instructions. In fact, I think they should tell them to shut up and let them do their job," Lau said.
A Financial Times article posted online since the meeting pointed out that the extradition plans have set off alarm bells in Hong Kong and have drawn some of the biggest protests the SAR has seen in years.
Meanwhile CNN noted in a story on Thursday that numerous international and local bodies have voiced concerns that the legal amendments risk undermining Hong Kong's freedoms and rule of law.
Last updated: 2019-05-23 HKT 17:24