Stage 6
16:15 - 16:45
Freedom of the media and culture in Hong Kong amid growing China influence

Short thesis

Next year Hong Kong will celebrate the 20th anniversary of the handover of its sovereignty from the Brits to the People's Republic of China. When the Sino-British Joint Declaration was signed in 1984, Hong Kong was promised "one country, two systems", under which the city will remain unchanged for 50 years - the city retains its was judiciary system and freedoms until 2047. But recent events and political turmoil have demonstrated China's growing influence on the city. Concerns over the status quo and the future of the city have been raised. Can Hong Kong continue to remain as a free society and uphold the rule of law? This presentation offers a factual account of recent happenings and how the people in Hong Kong strive to safeguard their freedoms and culture amid the growing influence from mainland China.


Five Hong Kong booksellers publishing books that are critical of the Chinese government have disappeared - including one believed to have been kidnapped in Hong Kong, the Special Administrative Region of China where rule of law and freedom of speech are supposed to be guaranteed by the city's "mini-constitution" Basic Law after the handover of the city's sovereignty from Britain to the People's Republic of China in 1997.

The yet to be resolved case has sent shiver down the spines of many Hongkongers, who once believed that Hong Kong was one of the world's safest cities and a free society. But it seems that as of now, anything is possible in Hong Kong.

Media and culture workers are at the greatest risks, for they are warriors battling at the frontier of freedom of speech and creation. The growing influence of China has affected the media landscape of Hong Kong tremendously since 1997. Not only does Chinese capital have gradually taken over major traditional media outlets. Media workers in Hong Kong have to constantly battle against a possible growth of self-censorship. Some have chosen to go independent and make use of the digital domain to ensure their voices can be heard locally and abroad.

Hong Kong is part of China as a Special Administrative Region. It is a city with unique history and culture, and a city where freedom of speech and the rule of law are the cornerstones for the past success of Hong Kong, setting the city apart from other Chinese and Asian cities. 

This session will first introduce the historical background of Hong Kong, its complex relations with China and Britain and the fast changing political and media landscapes of Hong Kong under the growing China influence to an international audience who might not be familiar with Hong Kong. 

It will then outline the changes of Hong Kong since its sovereignty was handed over to China from Britain in 1997, the major incidents from social to political and cultural that provoked hundreds of thousands of Hongkongers to take to the streets for multiple times to voice their opinion, including the Occupy protests (Umbrella Movement) in 2014 and the Lunar New Year violent clash that has been dubbed as "Fishball Revolution" in February this year. 

The session will continue to explore the possible future of freedom to media and culture in the former British colony in the digital realm.

The session will then examine the role of media in the context of culture amid such background, and how independent efforts and education for the young generation can be the last resort for Hongkongers to fend their rights in the last free city in China.