The New York Times moves part of its Hong Kong office to Seoul as concerns about the impact of new national security laws on press freedom and security increase.
The US outlet will move its digital team – about a third of its current office in Hong Kong – to the South Korean capital next year. Correspondents and print production teams for the International New York Times, the newspaper̵
The employees were informed of the move in a memo by editors and managers on Tuesday.
“China’s comprehensive new national security law in Hong Kong has created a lot of uncertainty about what the new rules will mean for our business and journalism,” it said. “We think it is advisable to draw up emergency plans and diversify our editorial staff in the region.”
A move from the New York Times reported that some of their employees had difficulty obtaining a work permit, which has rarely been a problem in Hong Kong in the past.
“With the city facing a new era under the heightened Chinese rule, the Times editors found that they needed an additional base of operations in the region,” it said.
On June 30, Beijing in Hong Kong imposed extensive national security laws to circumvent the semi-autonomous region’s own legislature, which prohibits subversion, riot, terrorism and collusion. However, the laws have been criticized as being so broad and poorly defined that even the most innocuous acts that support independence can be considered illegal.
The legality of journalistic practices in Hong Kong is also unclear, and requests to the Hong Kong government have only given warnings that the press will not be targeted as long as journalists abide by the new laws.
Hong Kong Free Press editor Tom Grundy wrote in the Guardian Tuesday that the laws are designed to scare the media.
“The government will not give us direct answers to questions about the security law – and that is the intention,” said Grundy. “Blurring is a characteristic, not a mistake – the authorities want journalists to overcompensate, bypass badly defined red lines and ultimately censor themselves.”
New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Washington Post employees were expelled from mainland China earlier this year as diplomatic hostility to foreign media continues in the United States and China.
“Hong Kong has been a leader in supporting free press rights in Asia for decades, and it is important that it remains so,” said New York Times spokeswoman Ari Isaacman Bevacqua.