Hong Kong: National Security Police intimidate reporter and confiscate travel documents

The Hong Kong police force’s national security unit searched a journalist’s home on July 26 and confiscated her travel documents, mobile phone and computer following the reporter recording a person attacking a police officer with a knife in Causeway Bay on July 1. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and its affiliate the Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA) demand the police to explain why the reporter’s home was searched and travel documents confiscated.

Police use tape to cordon off areas in the Causeway Bay district on the 24th anniversary of Hong Kong's handover on July 1, 2021. Credit: ISAAC LAWRENCE / AFP

The 56-year-old reporter for Secret China, a Chinese-language American media outlet, was asked to give a statement at Wan Chai police station as a witness on July 1 when the attack occurred. HKJA arranged for a lawyer to accompany the reporter to the police station and police said they would inform HKJA if they required further information from her. July 1 also marked the 24th anniversary of Hong Kong’s handover from Britain.

According to HKJA, on July 26, police did not notify the association and visited the reporter’s temporary residence to seek an additional statement. The reporter was accompanied by a friend when she gave the statement. Following the statement, police used a warrant to search the reporter’s home, confiscating her travel documents to prevent her from leaving Hong Kong and seizing equipment without a lawyer present. When HKJA became aware of this, the association arranged for a lawyer to be present on July 27, and she gave a statement “under caution” to the police.  

The Hong Kong Free Press noted, “Implementation Rules for Article 43 of the national security law provides that police may only with a warrant confiscate travel documents belonging to a person under investigation over suspected violations of the security law.” A report written by the Centre for Law and Democracy supported by the IFJ highlights further broad and intrusive powers given to the national security unit under the National Security Law, limiting the right to privacy and freedom of expression. 

The HKJA said: “HKJA demands the police explain whether the reporter is indeed ‘assisting an investigation,’ and if so, why was her home searched and her travel documents confiscated?”

The IFJ said: “The repeated questioning, search and confiscation of the journalist’s property and travel documents through the powers given to police under the National Security Law demonstrates how authorities use the law to target and intimidate journalists. Despite police claiming the reporter is only assisting police, the actions of police by questioning her under caution and restricting her movement cannot be justified and criminalise freedom of expression.”

For further information contact IFJ Asia - Pacific on ifj@ifj-asia.org

The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 140 countries

Twitter: @ifjasiapacific, on Facebook: IFJAsiaPacific and Instagram