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Reuters ignores Hong Kong protests on Chinese-language website

The Chinese-language website of the Reuters news service as it appeared late Sunday evening. (Photo: The Desk)
The Chinese-language website of the Reuters news service as it appeared late Sunday evening. (Photo: The Desk)

Editor’s note: This article has been updated since it was first published. Click here to view the update.

Tens of thousands of demonstrators took to the streets of Hong Kong over the weekend in one of the largest pro-democracy movements since China regained control of the region from Britain nearly two decades ago.

But you might never know the demonstration took place if you relied solely on the Reuters news service’s Chinese-language website, which lacked any coverage of the event.

“Reuters… (is) doing some of their best reporting ever on the Hong Kong protests,” Charlie Smith, an activist with the website FreeWeibo, wrote in an e-mail to supporters on Sunday. “But we noticed today that this is happening in English only, not in Chinese.”

Other news organizations with regional variants, including the New York Times and BBC News, made their coverage of events available in both English and Chinese, Smith noted. Smith accused the Wall Street Journal of engaging in self-censorship as well, but a review of the Journal’s Chinese language website showed that the news organization was covering the situation in Hong Kong as of Sunday evening.

The Chinese government has a history of blocking news websites in which stories that officials deem unfavorable are published. Last November, the websites of both Reuters and the Wall Street Journal were temporarily blocked in the country after both news organizations published stories detailing the controversial work history of a Chinese official’s daughter. Both stories were based on an investigative report published earlier by the New York Times.

China is also known to deny work visas to international correspondents for any number of reasons. In 2013, the government refused to renew Reuters correspondent Paul Mooney’s visa. The reporter had filed stories in the country for 18 years. He was reassigned to another location, a company spokesperson said.

In 2012, the government expelled an Al Jazeera English correspondent for unknown reasons. After the journalist left the country, the news station shut down its Beijing bureau.

Others have taken a different approach, opting to self-censor in an effort to continue operating in the country. Last November, a prize-winning Bloomberg journalist was suspended after he allegedly leaked information to other media outlets concerning the news organization’s decision not to publish a report centered on affluent family members of Community party officials.

It is unclear why Reuters decided not to publish information about the Hong Kong protests on its Chinese-language website. The Desk reached out to Reuters for comment.

Hong Kong police deployed tear gas late Sunday evening in an attempt to disperse hundreds of agitated demonstrators. The use of tear gas by police is uncommon in the region.

Officials say they have arrested nearly 80 people in connection with the weekend’s civil demonstrations.

Update (29-Sep): The day after this article was originally published, the Chinese-language version of the Reuters news website updated its front page to include an article on the civil demonstrations in Hong Kong. A multimedia slideshow accompanied the article. A representative of the news agency has still not returned a request from The Desk for comment.

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About the Author:

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is the publisher of The Desk and reports on the business and policy matters involving the broadcast television, streaming video and radio industries. He previously worked for Thomson Reuters, Disney-ABC, Tribune Broadcasting and McNaughton Newspapers. Matthew is based in Northern California, has won numerous awards in the field of journalism, and is a member of IRE (Investigative Reporters and Editors).