The Hong Kong-based investigative news agency FactWire announced its closure on Friday, the latest in a line of cutting-edge media outlets to fold amid an ongoing crackdown on dissent under a draconian national security law.
“It is time for us to bid you farewell,” the agency said in a statement on its website.
“In recent years, the media has contended with great change,” it said. “Despite having wrestled many times with the difficult decision as to whether to continue our journalistic work, we had always come to the same affirmative conclusion: to stand fast to our core values and beliefs, and to always report the facts.”
“But to every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose. It has, at last, come time to end our journey,” the agency said.
“The FactWire News Agency will cease operation as of today, Friday, June 10, 2022. All staff will be dismissed in accordance with pre-established procedures. All monthly subscriptions will also be suspended as of today,” the statement said.
Set up in 2015 with crowdfunding from thousands of Hong Kong residents, FactWire ran a non-profit, public service news agency for six years, focusing on hard-hitting investigations, and has been no stranger to official harassment and covert threats.
The agency tweeted on May 3 that its newsletter delivery system had been hacked, exposing the personal details of some 3,700 subscribers, apologizing to subscribers for the data leak.
It made global headlines in 2017 when it exposed defects in the European pressurized reactors (EPR) designed by French nuclear firm Areva at the U.S. $8.3 billion Taishan nuclear power plant on the coast of neighboring Guangdong.
In 2018, the agency reported that a garrison of Chinese border guards had taken over land on Hong Kong’s side of the internal border despite promises from China the city would remain a separate jurisdiction after the 1997 handover.
The investigative journalism group FactWire found that some 21,000 square feet of privately owned land within a high-security area along the Hong Kong side of the border with mainland China had been taken over by the 6th Detachment of the Guangdong provincial border defense corps of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) for six years.
It said the border guards had also built themselves a small bridge over the Sha Tau Kok river, which runs along the border at this point, and “frequently” use it to enter Hong Kong incognito.
In 2016, FactWire, which has won SOPA and Human Rights Press Awards for its work, vowed to ignore an anonymous threat of “trouble” after an expose on faulty trains made in mainland China, stepping up security measures.
During the 2019 protest movement, which prompted China to exercise far more direct political control of Hong Kong via changes to the election system and by criminalising peaceful opposition under the national security law, FactWire followed up on the fate of victims of the Aug. 31, 2019 attacks on passengers at Prince Edward MTR, and later exposed a facial recognition function hidden in the Hong Kong government’s LeaveHomeSafe COVID-19 tracking app.
The ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) imposed a draconian national security law on Hong Kong from July 1, 2020, ushering in a crackdown on pro-democracy media organizations, activists and politicians that sparked the forcible closure of Jimmy Lai’s Next Digital media empire, including the pro-democracy Apple Daily newspaper, as well as the closure of Stand News and Citizen News, and the “rectification” of iCable news and government broadcaster RTHK to bring them closer to Beijing’s official line.
Hong Kong recently plummeted from 80th to 148th in the 2022 Reporters Without Border (RSF) press freedom index, with the closures of Apple Daily and Stand News cited as one of the main factors.
More than 800 Hong Kong journalists lost their jobs at the two outlets, leaving most forced to look for work outside the industry, many of them far from Hong Kong.
Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.