Date of Award

2002

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Communications Honours

School

School of Communications & Multimedia

Faculty

Faculty of Communications, Health and Science

First Advisor

Dr Beate Josephi

Abstract

The year 1997 marked a significant change in the history of Hong Kong, for it was returned to China after 156 years of British control, and became a Special Administrative Region (SAR) of the People's Republic of China. While the territory was still a British colony, it was considered a stronghold for liberal journalism in Asia. Since the years leading to the handover, mainland Chinese officials have criticised the Hong Kong press for abusing the laissez-faire media environment. The flamboyant style of the Hong Kong media contradicted the rigid, socialist ideology of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). As the handover drew closer, the differences between the social and political systems became even starker. This thesis likens China's growing interference in the Hong Kong press and the SAR's corresponding resistance to a game of 'tug-of war', with the meaning of the word 'press' in 'press freedom' being narrowed down to 'print newspapers'. It explores the controversy over Beijing's alleged infringements on the territory's press freedom, by studying three cases involving mainland intervention that occurred during the first four years after the handover. Meanwhile, it stresses that the future of a liberal press in Hong Kong should neither be seen as gloomy nor impossible, by showing how local defenders of a free press have responded to the three incidents. In addition, this thesis provides an insight on the importance of preserving press freedom in Hong Kong, as well as how China and the SAR can reach a compromise on this issue. In contrast to other work in this area which often highlights the fact that Hong Kong's press freedom has been increasingly under threat and would probably vanish altogether, this thesis hopes to provide a new interpretation of this problematic issue in an optimistic way. It also wishes to offer the reader a better understanding of what is meant by press freedom in Hong Kong.

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