Where Free Press Stands in Hong Kong Protests

Freedom of the press is a luxury that many take for granted. It’s easy to turn on the television, check your favorite website or browse social media for any inkling of news, but what if that wasn’t the case?

Under the leadership of newly elected President Xi Jinping, access to uncensored news coverage in mainland China is essentially non-existant. Residents of Hong Kong have enjoyed more liberal rights to free speech since becoming an autonomous city in 1997 after more than 100 years as a British colony. But what if that all changed?

Protestors have amassed in the streets of Hong Kong over the past few days in protest of the increasing control of the Chinese Communist Party. Protestors are calling for direct control of the 2017 elections for the leader of their city without Beijing intervening, which wants to approve of the candidates before the vote, according to U.S. News.

This one issue is more representative of the growing fears that residents of Hong Kong have. It’s the concern that mainland China is slowly encroaching on their liberties and tens of thousands are taking to the streets to ensure that their voices are heard. As journalists have become increasingly censored over the past few years in China with some notable media figures being fired from their jobs or denied entry to the country, many are heading to Hong Kong. As protestors clash with the government over maintaining their freedoms the rights of journalists is caught in between

Jinping’s predecessor, former Chinese President Hu Jintao was considered to be ruthless when it came to media censorship. During his tenure between 2005 and 2013 when social media became increasingly popular, Jintao built an immense internet censorship system that regularly blocked anti-government speech. His system, nicknamed “the Great Firewall of China” pails in comparison to the aggressive tactics implemented by Jintao.

In the lead up to the June 4 anniversary of Tiananmen Square, 91 writers, activists and lawyers were arrested or forced out of Beijing for their criticisms of the government. Further regulations have blocked online content, including Google, from operating in the country because of an implemented “communications lockdown,” according to U.S. News.

As of Sunday, Instagram was blocked in mainland China to prevent images of the Hong Kong protests from spreading throughout the country. The hashtags “Occupy Central” referring to the protests, and “Hong Kong” have also been blocked on Weibo.

Even with the increased censorship the word is getting out. News is spreading throughout the world of the protests in Hong Kong and the attempts of the government to censor this seems to only be backfiring.

About Sean Flynn

Sean Flynn is a recent graduate from City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. His work has appeared in The Buffalo News, Condé Nast Traveler, The New York Times 'Fort Greene Local', The Daily Meal, and FoxNews.com.
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