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Fears raised after Hong Kong journalist fails to return from China trip

<span>Photograph: Bloomberg/Getty Images</span>
Photograph: Bloomberg/Getty Images

Friends and colleagues of a Hong Kong journalist have raised concerns after she failed to return from a defence and security forum in Beijing a month ago.

Minnie Chan, a reporter for the South China Morning Post, has not been in contact since she went to the Xiangshan Forum, Japan’s Kyodo News reported on Thursday. Chan filed several stories from the forum, the most recent of which was published on 2 November.

Kyodo News reported that her friends, whom it did not name, were concerned she was under investigation. The Guardian understands colleagues at the South China Morning Post have also made inquiries to their editors about her whereabouts.

In a statement, the South China Morning Post 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. We are in contact with Minnie’s family and we have no further information to disclose,” it told the Guardian.

“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.”

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Chan last posted on X on 20 October. Her personal Facebook page shows photos were posted on 11 November, but the comments beneath it contain a claim from a friend, Andrei Pinkov, that she did not post it. Pinkov, who has been contacted by the Guardian, has posted several comments on her page, asking where she is.

The Hong Kong Journalists Association on Friday expressed its concern over the reports. “The Hong Kong Journalists Association is deeply concerned for Minnie’s safety and is requesting more information from the SCMP,” it said, asking Chan’s friends or relatives to contact the association if they had information about her whereabouts or needed assistance.

Chan has worked for the paper for 18 years, according to her LinkedIn profile. She previously worked at the Apple Daily, which was forced to close after a Hong Kong government crackdown, and the Chinese Phoenix Satellite TV station.

The South China Morning Post is owned by the Chinese company Alibaba Holdings. It is the largest English-language newspaper in Hong Kong, which still allows greater press freedom than in mainland China. However, conditions have worsened since the introduction of the national security law in 2020.

Additional reporting by Chi Hui Lin