On June 10th, almost a year after the brief occupation of the Legislative Council building (LegCo) during a pro-democracy protest in Hong Kong, two journalists at the scene have been slammed with new charges of rioting which in the law carries a maximum 10-year prison sentence, but is in this case is limited to seven years due to the fact it is judged by the District Court in Hong Kong.
Ma Kai-chung, a reporter from the online media Passion Times and Wong Ka-ho, the deputy chief-editor of the City University of Hong Kong’s student journal, will both be tried in August alongside 10 protestors and were initially only charged with “illegally entering and remaining in the Legislative Council chamber”, an offense which carries a maximum 3-month prison sentence.
“These two journalists were only performing their professional duty by documenting the occupation of the Legislative Council building and should never be indicted, and especially not charged with a crime that carries a 10-year jail term”, says Cédric Alviani, Reporters Without Borders’ (RSF) East Asia bureau head, who calls on the Hong Kong Secretary for Justice to “immediately drop the absurd rioting charge.”
On the night of July 1st 2019, a date that marked the 22nd anniversary of the former British colony’s handover to China, a small group of protesters stormed the Legislative Council building, whilst over half a million Hong Kong residents took to the streets protesting against a now withdrawn bill that would have allowed extradition to the mainland.
According to the Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA), Hong Kong’s press freedom dropped to a record low in 2019, largely as a result of police violence. RSF has raised the issue of violence against journalists in a letter last July addressed to Carrie Lam, head of the Hong Kong executive, but received only a canned response.
The Special Administrative Region of Hong Kong has fallen from 18th place in 2002 to 80th place in this year’s RSF Press Freedom Index. The People's Republic of China stagnates at the bottom of the index in 177th place out of a total of 180 countries.