Quick Look

Inmediahk has influenced many major political issues in HK by providing independently-investigated information.

Beginning Date: 
October 1, 2004
Annual Budget 2007: 
Annual Budget 2008: 
Annual Budget 2009: 
Annual Budget 2010: 
How many unique hits per month?: 
Project Scale: 
Types of Tools: 
Specific Tools: 
Hong Kong S.A.R., China


Colonized by the UK since 1841, Hong Kong has a much more abundant democratic legacy compared with the mainland. Nonetheless, after Hong Kong's return to China in 1997, the concerns of many Hong Kong residents have begun materializing: The growing dependency on the mainland has resulted in a contraction in its public sphere. Witnessing the changes as a journalist, Oiwan Lam founded Inmediahk, which is dedicated to promoting democratic/social movements in Hong Kong and to shaping a public sphere free from control of the regime, consortia, or political parties.

Hong Kong has played an important role in preserving democratic endeavors of the mainlanders. The June 4th Memorial, a remembrance of the Tiananmen Square Massacre, has been hosted in Hong Kong for more than 20 consecutive years. Hong Kong’s mainstream media has uncovered, widely reported on, and openly criticized arrests and trials of mainland democracy advocates. civic participation incidents, such as the Anti-Waste-Incineration movement in Guangzhou, were supported by residents in Hong Kong.

InMediaHK works in this environment to cover stories or aspects of stories that are not otherwise told in the mainstream press. InMediaHK draws upon publicly accessible information, such as government documents, as well as independent investigative reporting. Stories are published on a website and shared through Facebook and Twitter.

With increasing internet connectivity and more frequent transit, the tie between Hong Kong and mainland China are stronger than ever. Though the Great Fire Wall (GFW) has blocked mainlanders' access to most Hong Kong forums and websites of mainstream media, the increasing amount of mainlanders who know how to "climb over the wall" can still access the valuable, otherwise not accessible, information. When Beijing strengthened Internet control last year, to escape the fate of being "harmonized", quite a few mainland websites - most famously, - chose Hong Kong as the new home for their server. Oiwan Lam reports that about 16% traffic to Inmediahk comes from the mainland, even though their domain name was blocked by the GFW.


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What are the biggest obstacles to your success?: 

Inmedia has been around for 5-6 years. We need some turnover within the group. Afterall, everybody has had their personal growth/development during the past few years. Editors who joined us several years ago are getting busy. Therefore, turnover is necessary.

How do you plan on overcoming those obstacles?: 

We are building up the special correspondent team. They are currently more active than the editors, bringing new ideas, new personalities. We hope the build-up of the special correspondent team can provide us a new mechanism to recruit new blood and new ideas. On the other hand, we need to build up sustainable financing.

What problem is your project aiming to overcome?: 

The shrinkage of the public sphere and the freedom of speech.

What are the roots of that problem?: 

First and most importantly, self-censorship. The big bosses in Hong Kong's media industry are all members of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference. They are pro-mainland central government and maintain close relationships with the powerful elites. Their subordinates, therefore, tend to refrain themselves when doing news reports. Secondly, the government enforces laws arbitrarily. The government applies laws that prohibit unethical actions to regulate speech on the internet. And it applies laws that regulate local public media contents to also regulate content on the World Wide Web. Inevitably, there will be ambiguity in legislation as well as its enforcement.

Why did you personally become involved in this project?: 

It is a long story. The project was founded at the end of 2004. Before that, I was a journalist. I witnessed the space for mainstream media shrinking after Hong Kong's return to the mainland in 1997. That is why I quit my jobs as a journalist. Later, I went to Qinghua University, Beijing to do my graduate studies. That’s when I realized the significance of the internet and information in breaking the mainland’s ubiquitous censorship. I hoped to establish an independent media source upon my return to Hong Kong. Also, some of my friends in Hong Kong experienced 0371---a massive demonstration of half a million people protesting against the Hong Kong Basic Law Article 23 on July 1st, 2003. They found that the online media was quite an important mobilizing factor in this event. In 2004, marked by the dismissal of radio hosts Wong Yuk Man and Cheng King Hon, it became a shared belief that the situation would only deteriorate. Therefore, my friends and I gathered to discuss what we can do. Inmedia was one of the ideas that came out. We studied various models like mynews, indymedia, as well as blogging platforms. The prototype was a blogging site similar to It was not until the beginning of 2005 that we developed our own platform.

Are you providing unofficial channels of information that should be provided by the government?: 

The government is the source for most of our information. Nonetheless, the government often distorts the information, or discloses only part of it. We can usually dig out something very different from the same document. For example, when the government planned to demolish the Tin Sing/Queen Piers, it did document public discussions about the detailed future usage of the piers. However, the government simply downplayed this part and explained to the media that it would be reconstructed into piers for the Liberation Army. These documents are open to the public and we can all access to them. But when you read between lines, you will find the story is actually more complicated. Sometimes we have to ask some government departments for some historical archives, which were often omitted by the mainstream media. The mainstream media work routinely and they have their daily work to do. As a result, when they encounter a new issue, they seldom look at it from a historical point of view. In contrary, we citizen journalists can have two roles. One is to report the issue; the other one is to actually participate in the issue. Our journalists that covered the Tin Sing/Queen Piers issue were the activists who wanted to restore the piers. Consequently, we will have more intention or motivation to dig out related information. There can be a lot of contradictions between two documents are published a few years apart. Generally, the reason is that the government wants to change its policies. For example, in the High-Speed Railway, the government first published a report, saying that a special channel would be useless. But, later the government just published another report that totally disagreed with the previous one. The mainstream media would just simply cover the new report without taking into consideration previous discussions. Besides, we have close relationships with NGOs. We also do independent research. For instance, in the Choi Yuen Village case, we were the first group that took field trips to the village and conducted oral histories.

Why is the government not providing the information?: 

This is the nature of the government. When the government wants to change policies with support from citizens in the public sphere, it distorts information. Again, take the High-Speed Railway, for example. The government told us that the trip to Guangzhou would only take 40 minutes if with the High-Speed Railway. But it did not tell us that the station in Guangzhou is in Shibi, neither the time it takes to travel from Shibi to travel to downtown Guangzhou.

Is there a freedom of information law in the country where this project is based?: 
Is there a right to information law in the country where this project is based?: 
How does the information published on your website turn into offline change?: 

We provide the most comprehensive information on the website, information that people could not receive from mainstream media (e.g. TV), so that people can have a more all-around understanding towards an issue before they decide whether to participate in an offline action or not, and also in what forms shall they participate. We also publish information about when and where of an offline activity will take place. But in the call for action level, we are not as powerful as Facebook.

What is an example of how information on your website has led to a concrete change?: 

At the beginning of 2009, we launched a workshop about the case of the High-Speed Railway. That's when we began to dig out information about the High-Speed Railway. None of the mainstream media covered the High-Speed Railway issue back then. After the workshop, we sent out a squad to do a field trip interview in Choi Yuen Village and began our series of reports on the issue. We also went to Shibi Station in Guangzhou. As our reports attracted an increasing amount of attention, the mainstream media followed. Therefore, in retrospect, I think we managed to set the agenda on the issue. At the beginning, there's an public opinion poll that showed a 70%-80% support rate for the High-Speed Railway project. 9 months later, when this project was waiting for final approval, another poll showed that the percentage of people who are against the project or think the project should be postponed/change the location of stations had reached 60%. Besides, the issue of compensating the villagers of Choi Yuen was raised. The government also took into consideration infrastructure for a new village if the villagers agreed to move. This was a significant change brought about by citizen media.

How many people work on your project?: 
How many hours a week do you personally spend on the project?: 

1 hour per day.

How many hours does the whole team spend on the project?: 

10 hours per day.

What are the most time consuming tasks?: 

The most important tasks are not time consuming. It is to think about the development of the whole project and the group, to plan, and to motivate others when you are pushing something into happening. I would read posts and suggest a focus every day as a work routine. But that's not hard.

How do you verify the identities of participants on your website?: 

We will send authenticate email to general users to confirm their identities. We require contributing authors to leave their phone numbers as contact information and we will call them to confirm. They can use a nick name, but the phone number has to be valid.

How do you attract new participants?: 

We have monthly salons/discussion meetings in the office. Besides, we have more than 30 members who have high social status in universities, the media industry or NGOs. These members help us to promote our website. In the High-Speed Railway incident, we rank high in the search engines like google and yahoo because of our detailed report on the issue. Mainstream media also quoted us in their reports, or explained our influence in the whole incident. We also have a programer to do SEO for us.

What has been the most effective method of spreading awareness about your project?: 

High-quality reports and good content.

What are your biggest referrers? Where does most of your traffic come from?: 

Ming Pao, Apple Daily, RTHK (both TV and radio), and SEMP are our biggest referrers. More than 50% of our traffic comes from search engines.

Where is your content re-posted? What effect has that had on your project?:, Twitter, and Facebook. We have one-button posting on the website so visitors can post our content on their profile page when they see something they like. Twitter and Facebook bring us traffic. Especially Facebook as most people in Hong Kong have Facebook account. The motivation process for demonstrations and dissent to the High-Speed Railway issue happened on Facebook. We acted as the backup motivators by providing context with our information. When people shared and liked their friends' post from our resource, it directed a lot of traffic to our site.

Has legal action been taken against your website?: 

There was one time that we deliberately challenged the legal system by posting an artistic photo of a naked woman on our website. Somebody reported us displaying obscene and indecent matter. The Television and Entertainment Licensing Authority (TELA) gave us a warning. But we insisted that it was not an obscene and indecent matter so we neglected the warning. Latter our case was brought up to the Obscene Articles Tribunal. This time we had to put up the "warning" sign on our website. But it seemed that the Obscene Articles Tribunal do not know what to do with our case. I handed in a document to defer the trial of my case, because at the same time, there was a CUHK JR case, the ruling of which would affect the ruling of mine. The examination process was terrible. The Tribunal did not specify that the photo was from the internet, or which part of the photo was regarded "obscene" or "indecent". CUHK challenged the examination process. I also questioned the examination comments in my correspondence. At last, my case was deferred and has never reopened. The bottom line is, the photograph was taken by an artist and the tribunal had no knowledge about the background before the examination. That's what we challenged.

What metrics do you use to judge your own success?: 

First of all, How much change do we bring about? That is evaluated by the influence we have on an issue, and the influence we have on social culture. To promote participatory democracy was one of our goals. We hope to raise people's awareness by the tools of citizen journalism that democracy is not only about voting. It calls for civic engagement into social issues. We do witness netizens picking up the concept. Second, community formation. Community effects can be very helpful. Inmedia has built up relationships with other groups. We also network with personal networking sites. Our network is quite huge.

What are the incentives to participate in your project?: 

To influence people and witness changes; to have fun working in the Inmedia community.

What skills and expertise would be of assistance to your project?: 

Fundraising. We've been doing quite well compared to other NGOs. But if we want to have a stable growth, fundraising is that part we need to consolidate.

How do you plan on financially sustaining your project? : 

We are doing quite ok at the moment. Currently we have a personal foundation to finance part of the rent. We have some small monthly individual donations that support daily administration. We have project funding to support editors and correspondents. Nevertheless, I hope we can gradually build a local, self-sustainable model. That is to say, expand the individual, small, monthly donations. It is not easy. The Inmedia group has two websites, and Local people are willing to support because it covers local issues. But they feel much less related with, which serves the whole Greater China and brings about less visible changes. Project funds for interlocals and other publications would be our focus in the next step. We annually apply for the CCFD, a church foundation from France to support interlocals. But it is quite unstable and we may have to cut back on the team in the years that the application was not successful.

What other organizations are you working with?: 

Justice & Peace Commission of the H.K (hosted salons), Catholic Diocese, China Pen Friends, China Human Right Lawyers (supported Liu Xiao-Bo), 8a Post, V-artivist, HKFS Social Movement Resource Centre, etc (hosted workshops that trained NGO's media workers). Our office is open to many other organizations to do video projections and small workshops, and we keep in touch with small NGOs on a regular basis.

Have you thought about developing your own tools?: 

We are applying to the Knight Foundation to build tools to collaborate more closely with the mainland. Local issues in Hong Kong are closely tied to the mainland, e.g. air pollution, water, High-Speed Railway, traffic, and the developmental planning of the whole Pearl River Delta. Tai Shan, a third-tier city in the Pearl River Delta, Guangdong Province, has one of Hong Kong's waste dumping sites. Hong Kong has interactions with the mainland on so many levels: investments, human mobility and so on. We hope to build up a platform on which we can do collaborative journalism with mainland individuals, through micro-blogging like twitter, to integrate information about the same issue. However, we expect it to be quite complex, because we will need coordinators who actively communicate with mainland individuals; we will need to hold workshops and events to encourage participation; we need a full time person to do follow up and organization after the events, as well as doing the final editing. The whole process needs a lot of resource input.

Has there been any communication between your project and government officials?: 

When we do interviews, we will call government officials. They know of our existence. But they don't take the initiative to contact our organization. Other than that, when a social issue involves violation of the freedom of speech, we will organize events, sign statements, raise our voices in the Legislative Council or intervene as an organization.

Are there any legal obstacles to your work? Any laws that should be changed?: 

When our journalists are doing interviews in the mainland, they do not have the Chinese press credentials/certificate/license. Therefore, though they have the Hong Kong press credentials, they cannot legally represent Inmedia to do interviews in the mainland. Besides, their interviews in the mainland are not covered by insurance. They have to take personal risk without any legal/institutional protection from our organization. Given that Hong Kong and the mainland are so close, I believe cross-border interviews will become a big trend. It is a pity that we just cannot do it right now. At the same time, I worry whether there will be legislations about cyber-bullying in the future. Somebody has proposed it. We are definitely against this proposal because it may make the existing law even more ambiguous. Imagine, saying vulgar words/ four letter words to somebody online can be defined as cyber-bullying. We certainly do not want to see it happen.

Have there been any attempts to replicate your work elsewhere?: 

We do not have the capacity to do it right now. Besides, every place has its own distinctive characteristics. There cannot be replication without appropriation and localization. What we are doing is very experimental. We studied models in different places and picked up practical elements from each model. Based on our experience in NGOs, we have come up with a sustainable model built on small, individual donations. It took us a long time to try and finally take off. We make the development plan based on the resource we have at hand. Like an amoeba, we start small and we add new things as we developed. When the funding is short, we cut back on things (e.g. staff salary). On the contrary, a lot of other organizations start with big funding/investment. They only start to think about the sustainable model when the organization achieves an explosive success.

What other projects in your region should we know about?: 

Ourtv. They are online TV supported by a big funding, which engables them to have 2-3 staff and an office. Another one is Green Radio, which is supported by a partisan fund. And Our Radio, they are half business-half political.

If someone gave you $30,000 how would you use the money?: 

I will do educational workshops that train citizen journalists. We are currently looking for resource to print a citizen journalist manual, which tells people how to be a DIY citizen journalist, how to protect your freedom online. We plan to have 3 versions, for Taiwan, Hong Kong and the mainland. If we have the money, we hope we can have manual as well as workshops.

I would also like to develop the collaborative journalism platform. This is a risky plan. I worry that it will suck up a lot of resource and the outcome may not be as good as we think it will be. The mainland participants can be taken away by the state security police. But you will never know until you try. Twtterers in the mainland are working on individual basis; they do not have a community. This platform, on the other hand, will base on our organization. We will have to work on how to facilitate these individuals to do collaborative work without putting them in a organization structure, which is vulnerable under mainland's censorship.

What are your plans for 2010 and 2011?: 

For 2010, the plan is to print a book about social media in mobilizing social movements in Taiwan, the mainland, and Hong Kong. Further development of the special journalists’ team and

For 2011, it depends on the resources we have. If we the resources allow, we will do a new book, the citizen journalist manual, and organize several citizen journalism workshops.


From your words,i'm very

From your words,i'm very intersted in your peoject.It seems that i have seen the efforts that you had made.It's inspiring.I really expect to see the situation that one country is of more transprancy and more civil participation.Let's imagine what's the picture?
Everyone dares to say what he or she want to say .Everyone can learn the latest news as soon as possible no matter what the content is.
We really should do something to gain the rights.It's our reasonable and basic right. Only if all of us take a action ,can we have access to the success.Try!Try!

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