IFJ Condemns Detention of Journalist by Hong Kong Police


The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) condemns the detaining by Hong Kong Police of a journalist after asking Chinese President Hu Jintao a question about the Tiananmen Square massacre during his official visit to Hong Kong to mark 15 years since the territory’s handover to China and to oversee the inauguration ceremony of the fourth term of Hong Kong’s Government.


On June 30, Rex Hong Yiu-Ting, journalist for the Hong Kong newspaper Apple Daily, shouted a question to Hu Jintao as he passedhim at a distance of about 10 metres. Hong asked Hu if he was aware of the Hong Kong people’s calls for justice for the victims of the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre. Hu did not respond to the question, and Hong’s attempt to follow Hu’s route was stopped. He was taken away by a group of plain-clothes police officers without explanation, and detained in a separate room for approximately 15 minutes until Hu left the vicinity.


After Hong’s release he said, “The Police said that I had caused a disturbance and violated the rules as I spoke too loudly”. It is reported that other journalists were asking questions of Hu in the same manner as Hong without interference from police. When journalists sought an explanation as to why the journalist was detained, the police initially refused to answer but finally replied that the Hong was detained “at the request of the host venue”.


The actions of Hong Kong’s police immediately sparked outrage from major journalists groups, including IFJ affiliate the Hong Kong Journalists Association and the Hong Kong News Executives’ Association. Journalism scholars from five local universities and several pro-democracy legislators also condemned the actions.


In addition, many local and overseas journalists complained that they were unable to access relevant information from the Hong Kong Government regarding the schedule of President Hu’s visit, which seriously affected their ability to cover the story. Two out of six schedules provided to journalists by the Hong Kong Government did not disclose any information except for asking journalists to gather at designated place and time. New Tang Dynasty Television complained that they did not receive any information from the Government at all.


The actions of the Hong Kong police in this case run contrary to the promises made by then-Secretary Security Bureau Lai Tung-Kwok, Police Commissioner Andy Tsang and other senior Hong Kong police officers during special meetings of the panel on Security of Legislative Council in 2011, when they repeatedly affirmed their respect for press freedom and wish to facilitate media engagement in the exercise of their duties.


“Hong Kong’s police force is clearly acting against the interests of press freedom by punishing a journalist for asking an unwelcome question of President Hu Jintao.” IFJ Asia-Pacific Office said.


“Asking difficult questions of politicians is part of the day-to-day responsibility of an effective, independent media. It does not justify censorship or detainment.”


IFJ calls for Hong Kong’s Independent Police Complaints Council to investigate this latest incident and urges the Hong Kong Police to issue an apology to Hong.


We also call for Leung Chun-Ying, Chief Executive of Hong Kong, to uphold his promise to defend press freedom in Hong Kong.  


Harassment of Hong Kong’s media during official visits from the mainland is nothing new. On August 18, 2011,Sit Ka-Kit, a camera operator with Now Television, was prevented by a plain clothes policeman from filming the visit of Chinese Vice Premier Li Keqiang to Hong Kong. A police officer in uniform failed to act on Sit’s complaint that he had been prevented from performing his professional duty, and that the person responsible had refused to identify themselves. In May 2012, the Independent Police Complaints Council later confirmed that the police were had interfered with the press in this case.


For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +61 2 9333 0950 


The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 131 countries


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