The New York Times said Tuesday it will transfer some of its staff out of Hong Kong because of the uncertainties about practicing journalism in the Chinese territory under its newly imposed national security law.
Hong Kong, which was handed over to China by the British in 1997, has long been seen as China’s last bastion of press freedom and is a headquarters for many foreign news outlets reporting on Asia and mainland China.
But an atmosphere of uncertainty about press freedom has followed the imposition of the law on June 30 aimed at curbing dissent in the city after months of anti-government protests last year.
The law states that the Hong Kong government will work to “strengthen public communication, guidance, supervision and regulation over matters concerning national security” for a variety of institutions including the media and internet.
The New York Times said that some of its employees faced challenges in securing work permits to work in Hong Kong, which until recently had rarely been an issue in the city and were obstacles mostly faced by journalists working on the mainland.
“China’s sweeping new national security law in Hong Kong has created a lot of uncertainty about what the new rules will mean to our operation and our journalism,” New York Times management told staff in a memo on Tuesday.
“We feel it is prudent to make contingency plans and begin to diversify our editing staff around the region.”
The Times will move its digital team of journalists, about a third of its Hong Kong staff, to Seoul, South Korea, over the next year. Correspondents will remain to cover the city.
Other departments, including print production, advertising and marketing staff, are expected to remain.
The national security law is not the first time that Hong Kong’s freedom of press came under scrutiny.
In 2018, Hong Kong denied Financial Times journalist Victor Mallet a working visa for chairing a talk involving a pro-independence figure. Later, Mallet was also denied entry into Hong Kong as a tourist.