HK Proposal Called a Threat to Investigative Reporting

The Wall Street Journal reports that the Hong Kong government is considering a proposal that activists and journalists argue would hamper local press freedom:

In a paper submitted to the legislature this week, the government proposed blocking public access to the personal information of company directors. Such a change would pose a threat to “most of the investigative reporting in Hong Kong,” said Mak Yin-ting, who chairs the Hong Kong Journalists Association and calls the proposal the biggest threat to local press freedom since the city’s showdown over a proposed anti-subversion law in 2003.

Currently, the public is allowed to access to the full addresses and ID numbers of company directors via company registry searches. If passed, the changes included in the government’s new Companies Ordinance would stop the public from being able to easily view such data from next year.

Such information has been at the heart of numerous investigative reports in the past year, Ms. Mak said, citing stories that embarrassed multiple local cabinet members as well as blockbuster exposés of Chinese official wealth by Bloomberg and the New York Times, among others. Hong Kong is frequently used as a haven by Chinese officials seeking to obscure their finances in a tangle of local companies.

See also CDT coverage of the two reports mentioned above, including The New York Times investigation into the business dealings of prime minister Wen Jiabao and a lengthy report published by Bloomberg about the wealth of new Chinese leader Xi Jinping and his family.

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