Hong Kong: Frontline police attacks journalists covering protests

The protests on March 21 saw the Hong Kong police continue to target reporters. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and its affiliate the Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA) condemn the treatment of the media by frontline police officers and urge the government to take action against those who carried out the violations.

Protesters gather at a station exit during a demonstration at the Yuen Long MTR station in Hong Kong a month after the July 21 incident. Credit: Anthony WALLACE / AFP

Reporters covering the demonstration attended by more than 100 people were attacked by police attempting to disperse the protesters on Youxin Street. The event commemorates eight months since the 7.21 incident on July 21, last year where 100 men attacked protesters and passengers at Yuen Long MTR station, injuring 40 people.

While dispersing the crowd, police used pepper spray after asking reporters to return to the sidewalk. Journalists reported adverse effects from the pepper spray, including reddened skin, burning and breathing difficulties. HKJA noted police shot at journalists reportedly standing on the sidewalk.

In Causeway Bay, pepper spray was also used on reporters in Fenxiang Road and Times Square. Journalists who were being treated for their injuries were questioned about the legitimacy of their injuries. Further, reporters filming near Jianye Street were threatened with arrest for an illegal assembly and forced to cease filming.  

HKJA wrote to Chief Executive Carrie Lam and Commissioner of Police, Deng Bingqiang, requesting immediate action to “eliminate the black sheep in the police force” and restore public trust in the police. “Although Director Deng Bingqiang claimed that the brutality of frontline police officers was not directed at reporters, and you even asked everyone to understand and tolerate the police force, the violent incidents over the past few months have proven not to be independent ‘individual incidents’ but riot control police officers targeting the media”, HKJA said.

The IFJ said: “It is the duty of police to protect the public and distinguish between journalists and demonstrators. The negligence of police in upholding their responsibilities and failing to act in accordance with the law is disturbing. The IFJ condemns the police brutality perpetrated by the Hong Kong police who have continued to undermine press freedom.”

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