Hong Kong: Police violence against journalists continues unabated
Tear gas fired in Mong Kok Credit: AFP
Freelance photojournalist May James was searched, forced to remove her face mask, arrested, and detained at a police station in Kowloon overnight despite having produced a press identification card. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and its affiliate the Hong Kong Journalist Association (HKJA) along with the Hong Kong Photojournalists Association urge police to respect journalists’ right to work safely, including the use of protective face masks.
On October 27 in Mong Kok, a number of journalists were reportedly attacked and arrested by police. Among them, May James, a freelance photographer, was asked to remove her face mask by police while covering the protest. According to the Foreign Correspondents’ Club Hong Kong, Ms James identified herself as a journalist, was wearing a high-visibility yellow vest, a helmet and backpack marked as “press” and produced a press identification card when questioned. Despite complying with police requests she was arrested and detained overnight.
HKJA and Hong Kong Photojournalists Association co-issued a statement stating a number of journalists were requested by the police to remove their face masks and in some cases, had their masks forcibly removed. These actions by the police are in direct contradiction to the government’s assurance that journalists would be exempt from the face-mask ban while carrying out their professional duties. These masks are used by reporters to protect against tear gas and pepper spray, and by law, anyone who requires the masks for professional use should be exempt from the regulation banning them.
On the following day, October 28, a police press conference was held, where according to a report, freelance journalist, Amy Ip, read out a statement criticising officers for treating media staff harshly at protests and blocking them from performing their duties. Ms Ip then pointed a flashlight at the police officials to demonstrate a tactic used by the police against journalist during the protests that causes the journalists great distress.
The press conference was suspended temporarily as the police top brass left the room. According to another report, staff from Police Public Relations Branch (PPRB) took a photo of Ms Ip’s press card, which has her full name and photo. HKJA reported that during Ip’s protest, staff from Hong Kong’s Police Public Relations Branch yelled at the reporters telling them to “Shut up”.
The IFJ said: “We strongly condemn the gross police misconduct. Forcing journalists to remove their face masks contravenes the Hong Kong government regulation and puts journalists’ safety at risk. The ongoing violence and detentions of journalists is reprehensible and we demand it stop. The IFJ is also very concerned about the personal particulars of journalist being shared in an unauthorised manner, and urges the Hong Kong Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data to conduct an investigation into any potential misuse.”