International media execs warn against crackdown on Hong Kong press freedom p. 12

By: Editorial Staff A GROUP OF international media executives has warned the Chinese government that a crackdown on press freedom in Hong Kong when China assumes control in 1997 would threaten the city's economic health.
"A shackled press in Hong Kong would not only be a blow to its international reputation, undermining the trust of trading partners, but would pose very practical danger for Hong Kong's economic future," said a statement from 20 publishers and media executives after a two-day conference sponsored by the U.S.-based World Press Freedom Committee.
The group said news media throughout the world would denounce any attack on press freedom in Hong Kong.
It also called for release of Xi Yang, a reporter at the Hong Kong paper Ming Pao who was arrested in Beijing for "alleged espionage regarding state secrets on banking."
The media group said that case was the latest in a string involving spying charges against Hong Kong journalists.
"We express our deep concern at the climate of intimidation increasingly facing Hong Kong-based journalists sent on news-gathering assignments in the People's Republic of China," the statement said. It called on the government to "refrain from any effort to force journalists to exercise 'self-censorship.' "
The group urged Great Britain to repeal colonial-era laws threatening press freedom before Hong Kong returns to China, and it urged China not to replace them.
Hong Kong Gov. Chris Patten open-ed the conference by denouncing censorship as "pernicious and ultimately self-defeating" and pledging to review Hong Kong's laws with its journalists.
"China has much to gain by preserving press freedom in Hong Kong and much to lose if it doesn't," said Katharine Graham, executive committee chairwoman of the Washington Post Co.
Graham was invited to the conference along with 19 other executives, including Sir Frank Rogers, chairman of the European Publishers Council; Cushrow R. Irani, editor in chief of India's Statesman; Karen Elliott House, international vice president of Dow Jones & Co.; John Vinocur, executive editor of the International Herald Tribune; and Harold W. Andersen, chairman of the World Press Freedom Committee.


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