Hong Kong authorities should immediately and thoroughly investigate police use of tear gas on journalists and allegations that officers hit and pushed journalists with batons during protests on 12 June, the Committee to Protect Journalists said yesterday.
“Hong Kong police should ensure the safety of the press during protests, not use force against them or block them from reporting,” said CPJ programme director Carlos Martinez de la Serna in New York. “This pattern of hostility against journalists is unacceptable. Authorities should hold the police to account and ensure that journalists can perform their jobs without fearing for their safety.”
Hundreds of thousands took to the streets in Hong Kong in recent days to protest a proposed amendment to its extradition law that would allow Hong Kong to send fugitive suspects to places where it lacked extradition agreements, including mainland China, on a case-by-case basis, according to news reports.
Last month, CPJ called on Hong Kong authorities to revise or drop the bill. [The bill was suspended later yesterday but not cancelled.]
According to local and international media reports, local sources who spoke to CPJ, and a representative from the Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA), a non-governmental trade union, who described complaints the association has received to CPJ via messaging app, police actions against journalists on 12 June 12 included:
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A police officer hit a journalist on the elbow with a baton while police were clearing the streets, the journalist, who asked to remain anonymous, told the HJKA. The journalist said that they were wearing a visible press badge at the time.
A police officer hit the backpack of a reporter from local news website Truth Media with a baton, the reporter, who asked to remain anonymous, told the HJKA. The journalist said that they were wearing a visible press badge at the time.
The HKJA received four complaints from journalists alleging that police fired tear gas at them at close range.
Police fired tear gas at a group exclusively consisting of journalists wearing yellow “Press” vests on a footbridge near the Hong Kong Legislative Building, according to Pang Tak Cheung, a reporter for public broadcaster Radio Television Hong Kong (RTHK), who contacted CPJ via messaging app, and as seen in a video (1:52:56) on RTHK’s Facebook page.
A police officer fired pepper spray directly at a photojournalist, as seen in a video shared by Twitter user Galileo Cheng, who told US broadcaster CNN that he was at the protest and filmed the video.
Police fired tear gas at a reporter with news website HK01 despite no protesters being in the immediate vicinity, according to local newspaper MingPao. The reporter told MingPao that he was not hurt but experienced tinnitus after the shot.
Police officers swung their batons at journalists and chased them, according to a video filmed and posted by RTHK on its Facebook page.
RTHK driver Zhuang Wenlong lost consciousness after inhaling tear gas that police fired at a crowd, according to news reports and the HKJA.
Police pushed journalists with their shields and batons to prevent them from filming, injuring one journalist, according to a report by the HJKA. CPJ was unable to determine the injured journalist’s status.
The Hong Kong Police Force did not respond to CPJ’s phone call requesting comment.