The New York Times says it is relocating its Asian digital news operation from Hong Kong to Seoul, citing concerns over the new national security law imposed on the city by China.
In a staff memo on Tuesday, the executives and editors responsible for the newspaper’s international operations said the new law “has created a lot of uncertainty about what the new rules will mean to our operation and journalism.”
The newspaper said it will move its digital news operation, which makes up roughly one-third of its Hong Kong staff, to the South Korean capital over the course of the next year, while their correspondents will remain in Hong Kong to cover the city and region. The company’s print production team for The International New York Times, its European and Asian edition, will remain in Hong Kong.
Hong Kong’s status as China’s only autonomously run city, including its openness to a free press, has made it an attractive hub for the Times and other English-language news organizations for their Asian regional operations. But the newspaper says some of its employees have faced challenges securing work permits, hurdles that are commonplace in mainland China.
The Times says it chose South Korea as a location for its digital news team because of its “friendliness to foreign business, independent press, and its central role in several major Asian news stories.”
Under the new security law, anyone in Hong Kong believed to be carrying out terrorism, separatism, subversion of state power or collusion with foreign forces could be tried and would face with life in prison if convicted. The new law was a response to the massive and often violent pro-democracy demonstrations that engulfed the financial hub in the latter half of 2019.
Western governments and human rights advocates say the measure effectively ends the self-autonomy guaranteed under the pact that switched control of Hong Kong from Britain to China in 1997.