I was excited to represent AAP as one of 12 Australian journalists selected to take part in the Judith Neilson Institute's first Hong Kong Intensive in May and June of this year. The institute partnered with Hong Kong University to deliver two weeks of professional development opportunities and international reporting experiences. The trip also fell at a pivotal time in the region's history, with tension over the controversial extradition bill dominating headlines worldwide.
From the perspective of the institute, the aim of the trip was to develop and support Australian journalists reporting on Asia. Our first week in Hong Kong was largely spent in seminars with professionals working in the media, law, politics and education fields. We also toured the newsrooms of the South China Morning Post, Bloomberg, and Agence France-Presse. As a wire reporter, it was interesting to hear how AFP operates and learn about its FactCheck division. Similar to some AAP investigations, their team of fact-checkers identifies possible misinformation being circulated on social media and publishes its findings.
The middle weekend of the program was spent at N3Con, a conference hosted by the Asian American Journalists Association's Asia chapter. The three-day event focused on covering Asia's new world order, and attendees heard from several reporters working in newsrooms across the region. Of particular benefit was the chance to work with Mark Horvit from the University of Missouri to learn more about the intricacies of data journalism - a skill set I hope to integrate more into my reporting for AAP.
A highlight of the trip was covering the 30th-anniversary vigil of the Tiananmen Square Massacre. More than 180,000 Hong Kongers packed the city to commemorate at a time when, similarly to the 1989 activists, many felt compelled to speak up for freedom. It was especially moving to hear from the parents of Tiananmen victims, who recorded a message from China because they were not allowed to attend the vigil. Despite the restrictions and the regime's attempts to censor history, they are determined to keep the plight of their children alive.
The extradition bill drew global attention at the time we visited Hong Kong, and everywhere we went it was clear locals were concerned about its effect on freedom of expression. The law could have had particularly serious consequences for journalists who publish stories critical of the Chinese regime. This opened my eyes to the challenges and risks faced by journalists working in countries that do not enjoy the same liberties as Australia. The extradition bill struck me as an issue particularly pertinent to Australia because of its possible effect on Australians in Hong Kong and on our relationship with China. I spoke with pro-democracy politician Claudia Mo and filed a story about her call for Australia to condemn the law.
This was one of three stories I filed during the trip:
I found the trip to be beneficial personally and professionally, and I would like to thank AAP for nominating me. I would highly recommend the program to any other AAP journalist given the opportunity, and I would be happy to speak with future nominees about what they should expect from the experience. More information about the Judith Neilson Institute can be found here.