Pro-Beijing newspaper Wen Wei Po published an article on Monday accusing an Australian academic of separatism, days after he said he was followed during his visit to Hong Kong.
Kevin Carrico, a Chinese studies lecturer at Macquarie University, said he noticed being tailed by a woman in her thirties during a visit to Tung Chung on December 8.
Carrico told HKFP he tried to take pictures of the woman multiple times but she turned away, and eventually he returned to his hotel. He added that he did not report the incident to police as he did not know who was following him or why.
On Monday, Wen Wei Po published on its front page an article entitled “Independence advocate from Australia spreading independence in Hong Kong” – which detailed Carrico’s movements in Hong Kong on December 11.
The article ran with a photo of Carrico leaving a talk on Hong Kong and Australian politics on December 11. The event was organised by the Civil Society Development Resources Centre and Carrico was the guest speaker.
The article also associated Carrico with independence advocates who attended his talk.
‘Unfortunate, but also unsurprising’
Carrico told HKFP that he thought the newspaper was responsible for tailing him, with the goals of scaring people away from meeting him, or putting him “on the radar of the patriotic thugs.”
“Considering all of the tensions and problems in Hong Kong today, I find it unfortunate, but also unsurprising, that the Liaison Office put so much energy and effort into following around one academic,” he said.
“I would be happy to talk to Wen Wei Po anytime for an interview, even though no one takes them seriously,” he added. “But of course they know that any interview with me couldn’t be published in their pages – which is precisely why no one takes them seriously.”
Wen Wei Po issued a statement on Wednesday disputing Carrico’s claims. The newspaper said its work was in line with usual standards for news reporting, and said it would reserve the right to pursue legal action against Carrico.
“[Carrico] claimed that he was ‘followed’ during his visit, and said that ‘Wen Wei Po is a spy organization,’” the statement read. “His false accusations against Wen Wei Po is a strong suppression of press freedom.”
Carrico also compared his treatment to what some other have experienced in Hong Kong, and questioned whether it was in line with “One Country, Two Systems” and the high degree of autonomy promised under the city’s political system.
Wen Wei Po and Ta Kung Pao, two pro-Beijing newspapers with ties to the China Liaison Office, previously published articles on the personal lives of independence advocates and pro-democracy figures.
A Ta Kung Pao reporter also got into a fight with localist Edward Leung in 2016.
Update (20/12/2018): the article has been updated to include Wen Wei Po’s response.