(Bloomberg) -- Hong Kong’s leader said the finance hub won’t pass a fake news law so long as media outlets exercise self-discipline, indicating the government has paused plans floated three years ago.

“If this problem can be addressed by enhancing professionalism, then that should be our first choice,” Chief Executive John Lee said at his weekly press briefing Tuesday. “If can we work together, there is no need for legislation.”

Lee’s remarks come at time of growing anxiety over civil liberties in the former British colony, where China had promised to protect freedom of the press under until at least 2047 under a “one country, two systems” framework. 

Hong Kong has been accused by foreign governments and human rights groups of using a national security law Beijing imposed in 2020 to erode freedom of speech. Last month, the city passed its own security legislation, adding to fears about diminished media freedom and space for open discussion in the once-freewheeling hub.

Then Chief Executive Carrie Lam raised the prospect of a fake news law in 2021, saying her government was researching a measure to combat “misinformation, hatred and lies,” without adding a timetable. The following year, officials concluded no country had tackled fake news with one piece of legislation, adding that “a set of effective legal regulatory proposals” was needed. 

Secretary for Justice Paul Lam said Hong Kong’s new domestic security measure had partly met the need for a fake news law, in an interview with the South China Morning Post published Tuesday. That legislation includes offenses such as sedition and state secrets. 

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