Press freedom groups are voicing concern for veteran Hong Kong journalist Minnie Chan following a news report that she went missing after traveling to Beijing to cover a security forum in late October.
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said Monday it was “greatly concerned” by news of Chan’s disappearance. In a statement, the international press freedom group urged Beijing to “immediately disclose her whereabouts and, in case she is detained, to proceed with her immediate release.”
The Committee to Protect Journalists also voiced concern Friday, calling for Chinese authorities to “immediately disclose her location and guarantee her safety.”
Japanese outlet Kyodo News had reported Thursday that Chan, who covers defense and diplomacy for Hong Kong-based newspaper the South China Morning Post (SCMP), “became unreachable after visiting Beijing” to cover the three-day Xiangshan forum.
The report cited people close to the matter, adding that those sources had expressed worries that Chan may be under investigation by mainland authorities.
In a statement, the SCMP said Chan had taken “personal leave.”
“Her family has informed us that she is in Beijing but needs time to handle a private matter. Her family has told us she is safe but has requested that we respect her privacy,” the newspaper said, without providing further details.
“The safety of our journalists in the course of their professional work is of the utmost importance to the South China Morning Post. This has always been our principle,” the statement said, adding that the paper continued to communicate with Chan’s family and “provide all the necessary support they need.”
When asked about the Kyodo News report at a regular press briefing last week, a spokesperson for China’s Foreign Ministry said he was “not aware of that.”
The Hong Kong Journalists Association also said it was “deeply concerned” for Chan’s safety and that it was requesting more information from the SCMP. The association, a trade union which advocates for press freedom, called for friends or relatives with information to get in touch.
Chan is a highly regarded journalist in Hong Kong and among international audiences who closely follow China news. She is known for her insightful and well-sourced coverage of China’s military and its development.
She has been with the SCMP since 2005. The paper is Hong Kong’s main English-language broadsheet and is owned by Hangzhou-based tech giant Alibaba.
Concerns about her safety and whereabouts follow recent high-profile cases involving journalists being detained in mainland China, where observers have long raised concerns about secretive court processes and extrajudicial detentions.
In October, Australian TV anchor Cheng Lei was released by the Chinese government and returned home to her family, more than three years after she was detained on opaque espionage charges.
Haze Fan, a Chinese national working for Bloomberg News who was also detained in 2020, was released last year.
China ranks 179 out of 180 in the 2023 RSF World Press Freedom Index. It is the world’s largest captor of journalists and press freedom defenders with at least 121 detained, according to the organization.