It’s 8 p.m. in Melbourne, Australia, and Jane Poon is signing off for the day, handing responsibility for running The Points to colleagues in the United Kingdom and Canada.
That the media outlet, founded last year, can “follow the sun” like this speaks to the ambition Ms. Poon and her co-founders have for The Points, one of several publications launched by Hong Kong journalists living overseas in the wake of a crackdown against the city’s once thriving press.
“Even though there are many brave journalists who remain in Hong Kong, the danger for them is very high,” she said. “Overseas media is becoming more and more important in telling the full story.”
Since the passage of a national-security law in mid-2021, at least 18 journalists have been arrested and 11 outlets have closed in Hong Kong, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. Almost a thousand journalists have lost their jobs, largely as a result of the shuttering of Apple Daily and Stand News, whose executives and senior editors are on trial for sedition and other offences.
Ms. Poon previously worked for Next Digital, owner of Apple Daily, Hong Kong’s most popular newspaper before the pro-democracy tabloid was shut down in 2021 and top executives arrested, including publisher Jimmy Lai. The Points staff includes several former Next employees, as well as journalists from other outlets forced to close or downsize in recent years.
An advisory board includes Canadian-Hong Kong musician and activist Joe Tay; Mark Clifford, former chief editor of two Hong Kong newspapers; and Steve Vines, former host of The Pulse, a current affairs show that aired on public broadcaster RTHK for over a decade before it was axed in 2021.
Mr. Vines, a former contributor to Apple Daily, has since moved to Britain. In an interview, he said he had “run out of places to ply my trade.”
“Remaining in Hong Kong was not a viable option and potentially a dangerous one,” Mr. Vines said, citing the arrests of other journalists and “unsettling threats” he had received. While he emphasized these were not from official sources, they were believable enough that it seemed wise to leave the city.
In a recent report, the U.K.’s All-Party Parliamentary Group on Hong Kong said media freedom in the former British colony was on a “downward spiral.”
The security law “has been used to stifle free media and to target individual journalists, which has crushed freedom of expression and media pluralism in Hong Kong,” lawmakers said.
Mr. Vines is one of an estimated 200 Hong Kong journalists who have left in recent years, many ending up in the U.K., Canada and Australia. A survey by the Association of Overseas Hong Kong Media Professionals, published last month, found over half were no longer working as journalists.
Of those that remain in the industry, many work for the Chinese-language arms of public broadcasters – including the BBC, Voice of America, and Australia’s SBS – established Chinese press in countries such as Canada, or the crop of new media startups targeting both the diaspora and audiences back in Hong Kong.
“We cannot really cut ourselves off, and don’t want to be cut off, from our homeland in Hong Kong,” said Gloria Chan, co-founder of one such outlet, Green Bean Media. “We’re upset that we had to leave, but at the same time, we have moved to a new soil that can allow us to continue our work.”
Ms. Chan commended the work of the handful of independent outlets soldiering on, including new publications such as Court News and The Collective, founded by veteran journalists who remain in the city while navigating new “red lines” created by the security law and a continuing crackdown.
Like their overseas counterparts, those outlets are largely funded by reader donations. Hong Kong media, particularly those seen as pro-democracy, have long struggled to attract advertisers, and it remains to be seen how sustainable a subscription or donation based approach is in the long-term.
There is also the looming threat of a crowdfunding law that will force anyone raising money from Hong Kong to register with the government. Ms. Poon said the law may “make people hesitate to give,” though she rejected the idea outlets such as hers based entirely overseas should be subject to Hong Kong jurisdiction.
That law could have an outsized effect on the independent outlets remaining in the city, further increasing the importance of exile publications.
Ms. Poon said that “so long as people can still access the internet freely, media overseas can be tools to show the other side of the story to the Hong Kong public.”