Harbour Times expands the team with experienced journalist Benny Kwok who joins from HKEJ.
HT’s new political writer Benny Kwok gets a grilling (or at least a gentle toasting) from colleague Alex Fok.
HT: Please tell our readers about your background.
BK: My university studies in Hong Kong centred around Asian politics and international relations. In 2009, I had the opportunity to take a four-month exchange programme in Sciences Po in France (5th in Politics and International Studies QS World University Rankings 2015). I picked up some basic French there, but what impressed me the most was the institute’s academic environment. France is really a place for philosophical debate.
I once worked as a teaching assistant in a secondary school and a Chinese editor for a publisher before becoming a journalist in the Hong Kong Economic Journal in February 2012. During my years in HKEJ, I finished my Master’s degree on Asian and International Studies.
HT: Is Hong Kong’s media industry doing well?
BK: Two things. Firstly, my observation is that Hong Kong’s freedom of the press has worsened over the time through both external pressure and self-censorship. There are also more people criticising the political stance of articles rather than examining the content.
Secondly, traditional media is struggling to catch up with the vibrant online media. Traditional media often lags online media when tracking breaking news or the latest movement of social dynamics. However, the former still possesses certain comparative advantages in areas that require more resources, talent and networks, with financial news being the prime example.
HT: How does Hong Kong’s media score compare to its Western counterpart?
“Freedom of the press has worsened over the time through both external pressure and self-censorship
BK: One distinctive difference between Hong Kong and Western media is that there is no proper live coverage, like what BBC, the Guardian do. But I also see why the practice does not prevail in Hong Kong. Apart from the fact that BBC and Guardian possess vastly superior resources, Hong Kong is a small a place such that information spreads quickly, which means resources-intensive live coverage does not have a market will pay for the cost of coverage.
HT: Having spent four months in Sciences Po, how would you compare localism to rightism in Europe?
I think localism itself automatically implies there is a certain level of right wing or even nationalist elements in it. I see localism as a product of a reactionary force against the biggest phenomenon of globalisation of capital and labour. But in Europe, people in general have a more profound, be it national or regional, identity that they have already built up, whereas in Hong Kong, such an identity is still taking shape. That’s why the discourse of Hong Kong independence comes out.