Run by journalists and backed by readers, Hong Kong Free Press is a non-profit, English-language news source for the city.
Our mission: We aim to be the most independent and credible English-language news source in Greater China. We seek to amplify the voices of the voiceless, not the powerful. And our platform will act as a monitor should Hong Kong’s core values and freedoms be threatened. The HKFP team is fully committed to reporting the facts, without fear, favour or interference.
Free of charge and completely independent, HKFP launched in 2015 amid rising concerns over declining press freedom in Hong Kong. It was the city’s first crowdfunded media outlet, and the fastest-funded, biggest crowdfunding project of its time.
HKFP seeks to bridge the gap between Chinese and English reporting while providing a platform for critical voices that is immune from increasing political and commercial pressure.
HKFP is recognised as the equivalent of a US charity.
After refocusing on original features in 2017, we slowed our daily coverage in 2018 to carry more scoops and exclusives. This restructuring culminated in HKFP breaking one of the biggest stories of the year: Hong Kong’s ousting of a Financial Times journalist. Throughout 2018, we also gave leading coverage to the banning of a pro-independence party, as well as the opening of the controversial Macau mega-bridge and China Express Rail Link. We covered the city’s biggest-ever storm, rising censorship, the 2018 budget, the Tiananmen Massacre anniversary and reported through-the-night on two legislative by-elections.
Exclusive Features: HKFP examined the challenges facing social workers, learnt about how a local ministry served over 600 asylum seekers, and looked into Soho’s historic past as a working-class neighbourhood. We reported on the “begpacker” phenomenon, the grassroots activists filling the elderly care gap, the residents fighting corruption at local housing estates and the struggles of an activist bookstore. We published features on recruitment issues and challenges in the media industry, the return of Hong Kong’s controversial anti-subversion law, a domestic worker who became a protest photographer. We also linked stories of today’s refugees with those of Vietnamese boat people in the 70s.
Also in 2018, HKFP looked at local community concerns over the fate of Shep Kip Mei’s markets, gentrification in Western district and noise pollution in Mong Kok. We asked whether promises were being kept over the environmental issues at Aberdeen harbour and investigated the theft of trees on Lamma Island.
Our team also spoke to a labour dispute watchdog news website run by volunteers, and reported on the battle for a waterfront park, the increase in the use of a draconian law governing computer use, suspicious fires in the wetlands, a board game about police corruption, dog shelters fighting for survival, war relics uncovered in a country park, the challenges facing the city’s wheelchair users and the Taiwan walking tours fighting stereotypes.
China: Despite lacking access, we also published China-related features about the Communist Party’s treatment of western firms, its crackdown on dissident and rights websites, elderly care and the erosion of filial piety, anti-Japanese movie dramas, human rights lawyer Lin Qilei, as well as Beijing’s tightening grip on new media and the human rights crisis in Xinjiang.
HKFP interviewed its first pro-Beijing lawmaker – Eunice Yung last May and former official Christine Loh in December. We also interviewed Cardinal Zen – an outspoken critic of China’s Vatican deal, and pro-democracy rights lawyer Chris Ng. Our interview with pro-democracy law scholar Benny Tai received critical acclaim. And before she was banned from running, we spoke to pro-democracy election hopeful Agnes Chow. The team also interviewed historian Vivian Kong, writer/performer Gabby So, and veteran pro-democracy activist Yip Po-lam.
LGBTQ & Gender: HKFP published over 100 pieces on the fight for LGBT+ equality in 2018. We investigated sexual harassment claims at a church group and our earlier reports into sexual misconduct allegations against the LA Times Beijing bureau chief led to his resignation. Our team looked into how the authorities are struggling to contain new, online spaces for sexual harassment and conducted an investigation into homophobic policies at Hong Kong’s private clubs and universities. We revisited cases of violence against domestic workers and profiled the female weightlifters breaking boundaries as well as non-binary trans activist Vincy Chan.
Exclusive Mini-documentaries: In collaboration with the University of Hong Kong’s journalism department, we published video documentaries on Kin-ball’s fight for recognition as a sport, a quadcopter retrieval team, a domestic worker who turned to sex work, tensions on campus between local and mainland students and aerial bamboo yoga. Over Christmas, we published a series of 14 “Hong Kong Humans” clips with HKU on topics as wide-ranging as sports, human rights, religion, art and death.
HKFP broke one of the biggest stories of 2018, revealing Beijing’s effort to cancel a Foreign Correspondents’ Club talk by a pro-independence advocate. We then revealed how the authorities refused to renew the work visa of Financial Times Asia chief Victor Mallet, who hosted the event as the club’s vice-president. Mallet was subsequently barred from Hong Kong, prompting protests, months-long reverberations in local politics, and wide international news coverage.
We were the first to report that a Chinese state media journalist had been charged in the UK with assault, we showed how a Swiss airline succumbed to pressure from Beijing, and reported that China had asked local consulates to change their official names and inform them about elections.
We broke news about a Hong Kong activist fleeing to Taiwan, and the local authorities rejecting a protest application. HKFP also published an exclusive, two-part series of unseen Tiananmen Square protest photos from 1989. Columns by writer Kong Tsung-gan were cited in UK parliament, and we carried an op-ed from ex-governor Chris Patten. Our team also published three exclusive stories based on British declassified files involving the Court of Final Appeal, the construction of the airport, and the career of democrat Martin Lee.
- This year, we carried over 220 HKFP Opinion pieces, showcasing much-needed commentary missing elsewhere in English. We featured analysis from renowned writers such as Steve Vines, Suzanne Pepper, Kong Tsung-gan, Ilaria Maria Sala, Tim Hamlett, Yuen Chan, Jason Y. Ng, Kent Ewing, Sai Pradhan, David Bandurski and Evan Fowler.
- We conducted all fundraising independently in 2018, using our own donation software instead of third-party crowdfunding sites. The move saved us thousands in admin fees.
- Reporters Without Borders upgraded Hong Kong’s press freedom ranking in May, stating that Hong Kong Free Press is part of an “organised resistance to Beijing’s meddling.” We were invited to Seoul to help launch the report, with RSF hailing us as a model for the region in a June blog post.
- A number of website fixes were rolled out to improve our uptime and site speed. Dozens of bugs, CSS design issues and load-bearing issues were resolved.
- In June, we rolled out staff healthcare and dental care, as well as three months maternity/paternity leave.
- Also in June, our editor-in-chief shared the story of HKFP and the importance of press freedom at TEDx Wanchai. He also spoke at three local universities and attended the East-West Center media conference in Singapore.
- We openly advocated for LGBTQ and gender equality, sponsoring Pride 2018. In September, partnered with No Air-Con Night to promote green habits, and we supported the annual Human Rights Art Prize in December in conjunction with Justice Centre.
- In November, we linked with RTHK and PEN Hong Kong to run a short story-writing competition, Top Story 2018.
- In early 2018, HKFP moved its operations to a new branch of The Hive in Wong Chuk Hang, placing the news team minutes from the legislature and government HQ.
- Staff appeared on ABC Australia, BBC World (TV & radio), RTHK, Deutsche Welle and Sky News among others.
Free Expression Week
- Our series of events on free expression since the Umbrella Movement was well received in November, with four sell-out film-showings and panels.
- HKFP linked up with NGOs Amnesty International, WMA Film, Planet Ally and Reporters Without Borders (RSF).
- We premiered Umbrella Diaries: The First Umbrella and showed Last Exit to Kai Tak and A Day in Transition. Panel guests included activist Joshua Wong, Russian feminist punk collective Pussy Riot, artist Sampson Wong, Amnesty’s Patrick Poon RSF’s Cédric Alviani.
- The centrepiece art exhibition by cartoonist Badiucao was cancelled owing to threats (see page 13). However, the series of events will be expanded in 2019 to act as an annual barometer of free expression in the city.
Hong Kong Free Press is structured as a not-for-profit company, limited by guarantee, not shares. HKFP does not answer to any business tycoon, mainland Chinese conglomerate or media mogul. We are run by journalists, and are answerable only to ourselves and our readers.
We are proud to be Hong Kong’s most transparent news outlet and, as a non-profit company, HKFP is externally audited every year.
Our income for the period between 1/1/2017 and 31/12/2017 was as follows:
Our 2017 revenue streams:
- All donations: includes one-off and monthly Patron contributions by cheque, cash, transfer, PayPal and debit/credit card, as well as profit from merch sales.
- Ad/content sales: includes income from Google/YouTube display ads [HK$3-9k/month]; directly purchased rate card ads; and content sales [from media outlets, institutions and Dow Jones Factiva re-syndication].
HKFP Patrons: HKFP is shifting towards a membership model. A monthly income from Patrons helps support our team and operations sustainably. As of the end of 2018:
- 72 credit/debit card donors donate HK$14,858 per month, before fees (average HK$206/month).
- 52 PayPal donors donate HK$11,690 per month, before fees (average HK$225/month).
- We receive at least HK$6,000 per month from donors who contribute regularly via cheque/transfer.
- In total, we have a membership income of at least HK$32,562/month from at least 124 Patrons – up from 99 contributing HK$19,767/month in 2017. Donors are overwhelmingly from Hong Kong, though we also have backers in the US, UK, Australia and China.
- Patrons are given priority and/or free entry to HKFP events, merchandise and a hard copy of our Annual Report. We aim to reach 500 patrons between 2019-2020.
Our expenditure for our latest audited year – 1/1/2017 to 31/12/2017 – was as follows:
|Mandatory Provident Fund (pensions)||HK$50,942||HK$66,180|
|Website, newswire text/photo, software||HK$33,083||HK$58,693|
|Office, sundry & recruitment/training||HK$25,801||HK$57,565|
|Meals/drinks for volunteers & staff||HK$25,531||HK$17,106|
|Legal, professional, registration, audit fees||HK$10,845||HK$45,231|
|Travel & Insurance||HK$8,267||HK$8,169|
|Freelancer payments & gear||HK$0||HK$34,090|
- HKFP is run as efficiently and prudently as possible, in order to maximise the impact of our donors’ generosity. We make savings by partnering with other media outlets, using free software wherever possible and making full use of teamwork and automation to save on labour costs.
- During 2017, we employed 4-6 full-time staff members, including a summer intern.
Our balance as of the end of 2017:
|2015 total surplus:||HK$91,654|
|2016 total deficit:||-HK$45,569|
|2017 total surplus:||HK$445,796|
As a non-profit, with no shareholders or investors, HKFP’s surplus was recycled back into the company in 2018.
81% of all spending goes directly towards supporting our hard-working 24/7 news team.
New revenue streams for 2018 include Book Depository shopping link referrals and coin donation via Coin Dragon machines. We also accept Bitcoin and Flattr microdonations.
Reporters Without Borders, the Committee to Protect Journalists, the International Federation of Journalists, Hong Kong Journalists Association and PEN America have all reported on the recent decline of press freedom in Hong Kong. With attacks on journalists, the rise of self-censorship, advertisers withdrawing from media critical of the establishment, along with the existential pressures facing the wider industry, it is ever more vital that the territory has an independent platform for critical voices to be heard.
HKFP is home to a mix of breaking news, original reporting, features and interviews, providing a direct platform for expert voices, citizen contributors, NGOs and advocacy groups. See our latest annual report.
As a not-for-profit business, HKFP is becoming more sustainable with multiple revenue streams such as membership, crowdfunding, advertising, events, donations and content provision.
HKFP is run by journalists and serves the public, and is not beholden to any risk-averse investors, shareholders, business tycoon, advertisers or corporate parents in mainland China.
If you believe Hong Kong needs an independent English news source, please support us.
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The 2020 HKFP team:
Why can you trust HKFP?
✓ Immune to censorship: HKFP is answerable only to readers – we have no investors, no shareholders, no tycoons, no mainland owners or umbrella company behind us. Our independence means we are fully resistant to censorship and self-censorship.
✓ Non-profit model: We are a non-profit, limited by guarantee company. This means all profits are recycled back into the company, and we are audited every year. We are run by journalists and immune to commercial and political pressure.
✓ Transparent & efficient: We are the city’s most transparent news outlet – publishing an annual Transparency Report. 84 per cent of income comes from donations, whilst 81 per cent of spending goes simply towards paying journalists. Teamwork, automation, partnerships and the use of free digital tools keep our costs down.
✓ Accurate & accountable: We ensure everything we publish includes a balance of viewpoints in order to avoid any bias. All facts, quotes and figures are properly attributed to the source, often with links to the original material. Our own opinions are strictly kept out of our copy, whilst we act quickly and transparently to correct errors. HKFP avoids sensationalism and clickbait, and clearly marks paid-for content as “sponsored.” Accuracy and fairness are our top priorities.
Free and accessible to all:
Our news is available, for free, wherever you are: On Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Pushbullet, Flipboard, News360, Psiphon, Apple News, on Telegram @hongkongfp (Channel) and @hkfp_bot (Bot) and through our phone apps.