RSF denounces sentencing of Hong Kong Journalists Association chairman
The recent sentencing to five days in prison of Ronson Chan, Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA) chairman, for allegedly obstructing a police officer is appalling. RSF calls on the authorities to ensure his acquittal.
On 25 September 2023, Ronson Chan, chairman of the Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA) and journalist for online media outlet
Channel C, was sentenced to five days in prison for reportedly “obstructing a police officer”. Chan was arrested and briefly detained last September for allegedly refusing to show his identity card to a plainclothes police officer, while on his way to report on a residents’ meeting in Hong Kong.
Past cases involving the same charge have typically been met with fines or community service, according to Chan’s lawyer. Chan was subsequently granted bail pending appeal of 30,000 Hong Kong dollars (around 3,600 euros) on the condition that he would not leave the territory. No date has yet been set for the appeal hearing.
“Ronson Chan’s longstanding commitment to press freedom in Hong Kong only serves the public interest, and he should never have been convicted for simply doing his job. We urge the Hong Kong authorities to acquit him of all charges, and to ensure the release of all journalists and press freedom defenders currently detained in the territory.
During his trial, Chan, former deputy editor of now-defunct independent outlet Stand News, said he was concerned about a potential privacy breach if he showed his identification. Previously, while Chan was covering a demonstration in 2019, police displayed his ID card and press passes to a livestream audience of thousands of viewers.
Over the past three years, in line with Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s crusade against journalism, the Hong Kong government has prosecuted at least 28 media workers and press freedom defenders, 12 of whom remain in detention. The government also forcibly shut down independent daily newspapers Apple Daily in June 2021 and Stand News six months later, while six other media outlets had no other choice but to disband due to pressure.
Hong Kong ranks 140th out of 180 in RSF’s 2023 World Press Freedom Index, having plummeted down from 18th place in the span of two decades. China itself ranks 179th out of 180 countries and territories evaluated.