(Bloomberg) -- The Hong Kong government renewed the lease on the Foreign Correspondents’ Club with a warning that the organization must abide by the national security law.
The lease was extended by three years at market rent, a government spokesperson said in a statement. The lease on the government-owned building in the city’s Central district was due to expire at the start of January.
The government “introduced standard clauses in the new tenancy to safeguard national security and to sufficiently protect the government’s rights and interests,” said the spokesperson, adding that the three-year extension is in line with its new leasing policy on historical buildings.
The FCC, which was founded in 1943, has occupied the former ice house for the past four decades. In recent years the institution has become the target of criticism from Beijing and its supporters. In 2018, Hong Kong authorities refused to extend a work visa for Financial Times editor Victor Mallet, who had presided over a speaking event at the FCC featuring a pro-independence activist.
In April, the FCC said it would suspend its annual Human Rights Press Awards this year because of concerns about possibly violating the national security law. The decision prompted some members of the club’s press freedom committee to resign in protest.
Beijing’s imposition of the national security law in 2020 has put pressure on media institutions in the city. The New York Times moved part of its Hong Kong operations to Seoul, citing uncertainty about the city’s prospects as a journalism hub. Three major pro-democracy media outlets shuttered, while several journalists face charges under the law that carries a maximum sentence of life in prison.
The result is a slump in Hong Kong’s press freedom ranking. The city came 148 in the Reporters Without Borders 2022 World Press Freedom Index, representing a fall of 68 places from the year prior. Twenty years ago, the city sat in 18th place. The Hong Kong government denies any erosion to the city’s media landscape.
The FCC, which counts Bloomberg News journalists among its members — including some serving on its board — confirmed its lease will be extended until Jan. 1, 2026 and said it will be raising fees starting next year.
(Updates final paragraph with FCC comment. An earlier version of the story was corrected to specify the lease will be extended at market rent.)
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