US-backed Radio Free Asia announces closure of Hong Kong bureau

The US government-backed Radio Free Asia says it has closed its Hong Kong bureau, citing concerns about the safety of its staff and reporters in the territory under the new national security legislation.

The Washington-based radio station made the announcement on Friday, a week after the legislation took effect in Hong Kong.

In a statement, the RFA president said the actions of Hong Kong authorities "raise serious questions about our ability to operate in safety with the enactment" of the national security legislation.

The legislation prohibits espionage, external interference and the theft of state secrets.

US, European and other critics say the law's definitions are broad and vague. They fear it could be used arbitrarily to harm business operations and media reporting.

The RFA had been airing unique reports on political and social affairs related to Hong Kong and mainland China. Authorities in Hong Kong had been accusing such reports of being slanderous.

The media outlet says it "will shift to using a different journalistic model reserved for closed media environments," and expressed its intention to continue to air reports in Hong Kong, mainland China and elsewhere.

Local media are reporting that RFA staff in Hong Kong will move to other places, such as Taiwan or Washington.

An increasing number of people believe it is a sign of tightened restrictions on free speech in the territory.