Hong Kong journalist ‘missing’ after going on reporting trip to mainland China

File: A woman buys newspaper at a news stand in Hong Kong, China (EPA)
File: A woman buys newspaper at a news stand in Hong Kong, China (EPA)

A journalist reporting for one of Hong Kong’s main English-language newspapers has gone missing since travelling to mainland China, according to reports.

Minnie Chan, a defence and diplomacy reporter with the South China Morning Post (SCMP), has been unreachable since she travelled to Beijing to cover a defence forum in October, Japan’s Kyodo News reported, citing sources.

Family and friends of Ms Chan fear she may have been detained and placed under investigation by the Chinese authorities.

The Hong Kong Journalists Association in a statement on Friday said it was concerned “about Minnie Chan’s safety and is asking South China Morning Post to learn more”. The association urged relatives and friends to reach out with more information.

The Alibaba-owner newspaper said Ms Chan was currently “on personal leave”.

“Her family has informed us that she is in Beijing but needs time to handle a private matter,” SCMP told The Independent in a statement. “Her family has told us she is safe but has requested that we respect her privacy. We are in contact with Minnie’s family and we have no further information to disclose.

“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. We will continue to communicate with Minnie’s family and provide all the necessary support they need. The Post’s operations and news coverage remain unaffected.”

The award-winning journalist was in mainland China to attend the three-day Xiangshan Forum on regional security which ended on 31 October.

Ms Chan’s last news report, published on 1 November, discussed China’s mediating role in Israel’s war on Hamas in Gaza. She has been working with the publication since 2005, according to her bio on the website, which claims she “has had several scoops relating to China’s military development”.

She had previously written about the Chinese military’s overhaul and the abrupt sacking of defence minister Li Shangfu.

She had in the past worked for the now-defunct Apple Daily newspaper, whose founder Jimmy Lai is facing national security charges, according to Ms Chan’s LinkedIn profile.

Her most recent Facebook post dated 11 November features pictures of her on holiday, while on X she last shared an article on 20 October.

One of Ms Chan’s Facebook friends told Al Jazeera that her WhatsApp account showed her as last online on 2 November and that her recent activity was “very strange”.

While Hong Kong enjoys better press freedom as a special administrative region, mainland China ranks 175th out of 180 countries on the World Press Freedom Index as it continues to “extend its information control model not only within its borders, but also beyond them”.

Beijing has also been tightening its grip on dissent and the free press in Hong Kong, however, forcing at least three pro-democracy newspapers there to close in recent years.

China is also the world’s largest captor of journalists, with more than 100 currently detained, according to Reporters without Borders.