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June 11, 2014 at 6:13 AM

The troubling loss of press freedom in China, Thailand

Session on press freedom in Asia at New.Now.Next media conference in Hong Kong on June 7, 2014. (Photo by Sharon Pian Chan / Seattle Times)

Session on press freedom at New.Now.Next media conference in Hong Kong on June 7, 2014. (Photo by Sharon Pian Chan / Seattle Times)

HONG KONG – In February, Hong Kong journalist Kevin Lau was stabbed by two men as he was getting out of his car. The trial of two suspects is about to begin and many believe Lau was targeted because of his work as editor of the Ming Pao daily newspaper.

Lau’s attack raised the alarm on restrictions to press freedom in Asia. Freedom of the press is a proxy for individual liberty. If a government cannot tolerate media criticism, it’s unlikely to stomach citizen protests, criticism from individuals or even an individual’s right to meet with others and discuss government problems.

Lau, who is now learning how to walk again, spoke in a videotaped interview that aired Sunday at the New.Now.Next media conference in Hong Kong, organized by the Asian American Journalists Association Asia chapter and Hong Kong University’s Journalism & Media Studies Centre. Lau called on police to continue investigating who ordered the attack. Here is a video of Lau’s interview, produced by Hong Kong University’s journalism center.

His attack shook many in Hong Kong, where press freedoms are protected, unlike China. In the lead-up to the 25th anniversary of Tiananmen Square on June 4, Chinese government imprisoned dozens of dissidents, according to an AP news story. China does not allow public discussion of the 1989 protests, when soldiers killed hundreds of democracy protesters. Imagine if the U.S. government imposed a blackout of media coverage on Sept. 11 anniversary coverage. (Hong Kong media, which is protected by freedom of the press provisions, covered the anniversary extensively.)

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Comments | Topics: asia, China, journalism