Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is greatly concerned over the disappearance of Minnie Chan, a reporter for Hong Kong daily South China Morning Post, who went missing in China in late October after she covered Beijing’s security forum.
Some friends of Minnie Chan, asenior reporter working for Hong Kong daily South China Morning Post (SCMP)and specialised in defence issues, publicly expressed concerns that she might be detained as they hadn’t been able to reach her since late October, when she covered a Xiangshan Forum, a three-day security conference held in Beijing.
Chan’s latest story, looking at China’s response to the war in Gaza, was published on the SCMP‘s website on 1 November 2023. In answer to an inquiry by Kyodo News, an SCMP executive stated that the journalist was “on personal leave” in Beijing “to handle a private matter”, and refused to give more details over “privacy concerns”. On the same day, SCMPalso threatened to take legal action against independent media outlet Hong Kong Free Press following its coverage of the reporter’s disappearance.
“We are deeply concerned by Minnie Chan’s disappearance as it has become a common practice for the Chinese regime to kidnap journalists and arbitrarily detain them for months in black jails, where they are deprived of their rights and often tortured. We urge Beijing to immediately disclose her whereabouts and, in case she is detained, to proceed with her immediate release.”
RSF Asia-Pacific Bureau Director
Frequent disappearances of journalists
It is reportedly not the first time a journalist from SCMP, a media outlet owned by the Chinese technology company Alibaba, goes silent after a work trip to China. According to TV channel Al Jazeera, one of Chan’s colleagues went missing for nine months in 2022, and was later assigned to another department covering less “politically sensitive” news.
In recent years, several journalists and press freedom defenders had been kidnaped or secretly detained incommunicado, to be later confirmed as held in custody by the regime, including publisher Gui Minhai, who was kidnapped in Thailand in 2015, journalist Yang Zewei, who was kidnapped in Laos in May 2023, and publisher Lü Hua, who was revealed to be detained, four months after his disappearance in April 2023.
Since Chinese leader Xi Jinping took power in 2012, he has been conducting a large-scale crusade against journalism, as revealed in RSF’s report The Great Leap Backwards of Journalism in China published in December 2021, which details Beijing’s efforts to control information and media within and outside its borders.
Hong Kong ranks 140th out of 180 in RSF’s 2023 World Press Freedom Index, having plummeted down from 18th place in the span of two decades. China itself ranks 179th out of 180 in the 2023 RSF World Press Freedom Index and is the world’s largest captor of journalists and press freedom defenders with at least 121 detained.
REPORTERS SANS FRONTIÈRES / REPORTERS WITHOUT BORDERS (RSF)