May 14, 2020

Hong Kong: pro-democracy protests resume, so does police violence against journalists

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) denounces police violence and arrests against journalists on the sidelines of the pro-democracy protests that resumed last weekend in Hong Kong.

Momentarily suspended at the height of the coronavirus epidemic, the pro-democracy protests that have persisted in Hong Kong for almost a year now reignited on Sunday May 10, and with them, police violence against the media. A dozen journalists covering a protest in the district of Mong Kok were targeted by police officers who doused them with pepper spray, forced them to sit on the ground and interrupted their recordings. A police officer also allegedly choked an Apple Daily photographer for twenty seconds while she was being restrained. Two teenagers, 12 and 16 years old, reporting for a student newspaper were also taken away although they carried signs clearly identifying them as reporters.

"By attacking journalists in this way, policemen violate the principle of press freedom guaranteed by Article 27 of the Hong Kong Basic Law," said Cédric Alviani, RSF East Asia bureau head, who urged Hong Kong authorities to "stop turning a blind eye to police violence and ensure that the police respect the media’s right to work freely and safely.”

According to the Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA), the former British colony experienced an unprecedented drop in press freedom in 2019, largely due to police violence. Last July, RSF raised the issue of violence against journalists in a letter to the head of the Hong Kong executive, Carrie Lam, and only received a canned response.

The Special Administrative Region of Hong Kong has fallen from 18th place in 2002 to 80th in this year’s RSF Press Freedom Index. The People's Republic of China, to which the former British colony was returned in 1997, stagnated at the 177th rank out of 180.