With low taxes and a location close to China's mainland, Hong Kong has long been seen as an ideal site in which media outlets can set up shop for their international teams. The New York Times, however, has announced that, due to Hong Kong's new security law against secession and subversion, it's moving its digital team of journalists—about a third of its Hong Kong staff—to Seoul, South Korea. "We feel it is prudent to make contingency plans and begin to diversify our editing staff around the region," the paper's editors and executives said in a staff memo Tuesday, citing "a lot of uncertainty" on how the new security mandate will affect journalistic efforts, the paper notes. Correspondents, as well as employees in advertising and marketing, will remain in Hong Kong. A source tells CNN some staff found out about the decision on Twitter early Wednesday, before they'd seen the overnight memo.
Media outlets are wary of the new security law, despite a clause that insists freedom of the press won't be affected. The illegality of spilling "state secrets" is often how officials get around detaining journalists on the China mainland, which can lead to the media shying away from reporting on government-tied stories. Sources say staff for the Times have experienced delays in getting work visas, though it's not clear if that's linked to the new security law or perhaps COVID-19. The newspaper had also mulled Singapore, Tokyo, and Bangkok as possible relocation sites before settling on Seoul for its "friendliness to foreign business, independent press, and ... central role in several major Asian news stories." Other outlets such as CNN and Bloomberg have so far indicated they're staying put in Hong Kong, though the Wall Street Journal and AFP are reportedly having discussions on the matter. (Read more New York Times stories.)