HONG KONG: Shining an Independent Light on ‘Dark Places’

MIRANDA PAK WRITES –  A year ago, as he perceived local media outlets to be bowing to editorial pressure from the mainland, British expat Tom Grundy thought Hong Kong could use an independent English-language news source.

Spurred by events surrounding the Umbrella Movement, the Hong Kong Free Press (HKFP) became a reality this June. As described on its website, “In addition to highlighting the lack of plurality in the local media landscape, the Umbrella Movement protests exposed a gap between the Chinese and English media. Some stories, themes and angles featured in the Chinese media were missed or ignored by the English press – other stories took days to be reported on. A free, unfiltered online English news source that bridges this gap is overdue.”

Grundy came to Hong Kong a decade ago and has worked as a journalist, blogger and language instructor. In 2012, he launched hongwrong.com, a mix of “news, mildly serious observation & irreverent claptrap chronicling the good, bad and ugly under the Fragrant Harbour’s fading lights.” (Grundy is also enrolled in the Masters of Journalism program at Hong Kong University.)

One of the goals of HKFP is to get Hong Kong news out into the English-language media. “If you want to tell the Hong Kong story beyond its borders you have to do it in English, which is now dominated by one media group,” Grundy said, referring to the SCMP Group. SCMP publishes the South China Morning Post and other titles that critics say lean heavily in favor of Beijing.

Because of this, Grundy says, “HKFP is free-of-charge, not-for-profit and completely independent – all in an effort to isolate ourselves from the attacks on press freedom we’ve seen in the territory”.

Grundy believes that censorship in Hong Kong comes in many forms, from self-censorsing, to commercial boycotts to physical attacks on journalists. His stance is backed by findings from several journalism associations, such as Reporters Without Borders and the International Federation of Journalists, which have reported on the decline of press freedom in Hong Kong.

Despite HKFP’s readers leaning towards the pro-democracy side, Grundy is clear that he wants HKFP to be as neutral as possible and to “shine a light in dark places.”

With Hong Kong’s ‘Special Administrative Region’ status ending in 2047, Grundy says, “We hope to be a truly local English-language news source with a global reach – charting Hong Kong’s journey towards 2047 and the puzzle that is its place in greater China.”

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