The Foreign Ministry's office in Hong Kong said on Friday that it strongly disapproves of a survey of members of the Foreign Correspondents’ Club (FCC) on the state of press freedom in the SAR, demanding the club stop "vilifying Hong Kong's rule of law".
The ministry described the questionnaire as an attack on the national security law and Hong Kong’s press freedom.
A spokesperson for the ministry said the lawful rights and freedoms of Hong Kong residents, including freedoms of speech and the press, are upheld in the Basic Law and the national security law. Contrary to the survey results, the security law better protects the safety of the country, has restored social stability and has provided people with a stronger sense of security, it said.
'We urge the FCC to stop sowing discord and refrain from interfering with the law-based governance of the HKSAR government and Hong Kong’s rule of law in the name of press freedom," a statement said.
Seventy correspondents and 29 journalist members had responded to the FCC's survey.
More than 80 of them said the general working environment for journalists in Hong Kong had deteriorated since the introduction of the national security law. Eighteen said there had been no change, while one said the situation had improved.
Asked in the questionnaire if they were planning on leaving the SAR because of concerns over press freedom, over 30 of the FCC members admitted they were considering it, while 20 said they already had plans to do so.
But the ministry said targeting a very small handful of criminals for their activities that endanger national security does not harm press freedom or any other rights. Rather, the spokesperson said, it protects rights and freedoms in a more secure, stable and law-based environment.
The office also said that since the security law was implemented, the number of local, overseas and online news media and practitioners registered in the Hong Kong Government News and Media Information System had gone up.
The ministry office pointed to the small number of responses in the FCC member's survey, saying it was neither representative nor credible, and accused the club of walking away from its professional ethics.
"We urge the FCC to distinguish right from wrong, respect the rule of law in the HKSAR, and stop driving wedge in Hong Kong and meddling in Hong Kong affairs under whatever pretext," it said.