IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Hong Kong denies entry to press freedom advocate

A representative of Reporters Without Borders said she was given no explanation for her detention and deportation upon arrival in the Chinese territory.
Hong Kong China glags
Press freedom has declined dramatically in the Chinese territory of Hong Kong in recent years.Li Zhihua / VCG via Getty Images

HONG KONG — A representative of Reporters Without Borders was deported from Hong Kong upon arrival Wednesday, the advocacy group said, in what it called a “new decline” in press freedom in the Chinese territory.

Aleksandra Bielakowska, an advocacy officer for Reporters Without Borders who is based in Taiwan, was detained for six hours at Hong Kong International Airport, the Paris-based group said in a statement. She was questioned and her belongings were searched three times before she was deported without explanation.

Reporters Without Borders said it was the first time any of its representatives had been denied entry or detained at the Hong Kong airport.

“We are appalled by this unacceptable treatment of our colleague, who was simply trying to do her job,” said Rebecca Vincent, the group’s director of campaigns.

The Hong Kong Immigration Department said Friday that it could not comment on individual cases but that each immigration case was handled in accordance with the law.

Hong Kong last month enacted a local national security law known as Article 23, which builds on a broader national security law Beijing imposed in 2020 and targets foreign interference and other crimes.

Hong Kong and Chinese officials say both laws were necessary to restore stability after anti-government protests roiled the city for months in 2019 and sometimes turned violent.

But critics say the new law will only further erode civil liberties in Hong Kong, a former British colony that was promised its political freedoms would be preserved for 50 years when it returned to Chinese rule in 1997.

Bielakowska, a Polish national, was traveling to Hong Kong to meet with journalists and monitor the trial of media tycoon Jimmy Lai, founder of the defunct pro-democracy tabloid Apple Daily. Lai, 76, is being tried on national security charges and faces possible life in prison.

Bielakowska and other Reporters Without Borders representatives successfully entered Hong Kong twice last year, once for the start of Lai’s trial in December. A colleague she was traveling with on this trip, Asia-Pacific bureau director Cédric Alviani, had entered Hong Kong without incident but left later Wednesday after Bielakowska was expelled.

Vincent said at a news conference Thursday that the group suspected Bielakowska had been flagged and deported because she attended the opening of Lai’s trial in December, whereas Alviani did not.

“We believe that this action was intended to stop our colleagues from attending the trial and continuing to bear witness to that and draw international attention to that,” Vincent said.

Hong Kong has experienced a dramatic decline in press freedom in recent years, falling to 140th out of 180 countries and territories in Reporters Without Borders’ 2023 World Press Freedom Index, down from 70th in 2018.

In another high-profile media-related case, two senior editors from Stand News, a pro-democracy newspaper that was forcibly closed in December 2021, are accused under a colonial-era sedition law punishable by up to two years in prison. The verdict in their trial is expected April 29.

Last month, the U.S.-funded media outlet Radio Free Asia said it was closing its bureau in the city, citing the newly enacted Article 23 legislation.