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Hong Kong press freedom seen to have deteriorated last year: survey

[HONG KONG] Hong Kong residents and journalists believe the state of press freedom deteriorated in the city for a second straight year in 2015, a survey by a media group showed, apparently a reflection of general unease in the city about mainland Chinese control.

For an English-language summary of the survey, see the link.

While there were no major attacks on the media last year, the case of five city booksellers who published gossipy books about Chinese leaders, and who went missing only to reappear in mainland Chinese custody, contributed to an undermining of faith in free speech, said an official of the Hong Kong Journalists Association, which conducted the survey.

"The squeeze in the newsroom is now so telling in newspapers and TV programmes that members of the public can sense it,"association vice-chairwoman Shirley Yam, told Reuters.

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Fifty-four per cent of the public and 85 per cent of journalists believed press freedom deteriorated in Hong Kong last year, as measured by a press freedom index, according to the survey released on Tuesday.

The survey of more than 1,000 residents and hundreds of journalists found that self-censorship was more common, with the greatest concern being over criticizing China's Communist Party-run government.

Former British colony Hong Kong returned to Chinese rule in 1997 under a "one country, two systems" formula meant to preserve its freedoms.

Mainland China has rejected calls for full democracy in a 2017 city election compounding concern about what many residents see as growing mainland restrictions.

The mainland government and Hong Kong's pro-Beijing city government have dismissed such concerns. The Hong Kong government said on Wednesday it was firmly committed to safeguarding press freedom.

"Every endeavour should be made for journalists to report news professionally and accurately under the principle of editorial autonomy," a government spokesman said.

In response to the case of the booksellers, China has said its law enforcement officials would never do anything illegal, especially overseas.