On December 20, following alleged firing of a live round at police officers in Tai Po, police fired tear gas at media and onlookers. One reporter from online outlet Stand News had a camera repeatedly hit by a police officer. Another journalist was hit on the hand and mobile phone, while other reporters were pepper sprayed. On December 24, reporters in multiple districts were abused, kicked and pepper sprayed, with filming also hindered. In Mong Kok, reporters were harassed and one reporter threatened to a finding of ‘illegal assembly’. Two tear gas bombs were later fired in the reporter’s direction.
During protests in December, as well as the hindrance of the media and physical assaults, police also failed to display their own proper identification. Out-of-uniform police officers intercepted a reporter in Tai Po on December 26 without displaying police authorisation cards. The same officers then proceeded to display the reporter’s Legislative Council press card, journalist’s press card and ID card on live camera for several seconds, allegedly contravening the Personal Data (Privacy) Ordinance.
On January 1, a magazine photographer was reportedly assaulted, verbally and physically, in Wan Chai after he fell to the ground injured. During clearance operations in Causeway Bay on the same day, riot police targeted reporters, asking them to present their press card and ID card. A blockade was expanded to surrounding streets, preventing media reporting and recording law enforcement actions.
On January 4, a photography professor from Massachusetts College of Art and Design, Matthew Connors, was barred from entering Hong Kong from the airport and detained for approximately five hours before being sent back to New York. Authorities said Connors ‘did not meet the immigration requirements’, but failed to provide further details.
On January 12, Human Rights Watch’s (HRW) executive director, Kenneth Roth, was also denied entry to the country to attend a press conference for the launch of HRW’s Annual Report. Authorities claimed this was also due to ‘immigration reasons’. With the focus of HRW’s report on China’s failure to uphold basic human rights principles, Roth said his denial of entry into Hong Kong “vividly illustrates this problem”.
The HKJA said: "We strongly condemn police officers for abusing, assaulting and expelling journalists to seriously undermine the freedom of the press. The actions not only provoked the emotions of the people present and harmed the health of journalists, but also seriously hindered the media's interviews and harmed the freedom of the press".
The IFJ said: “The failure of Hong Kong’s police to respect media freedom continues unabated. Harassment and intimidation is now the order of the day. The IFJ again reiterates the urgent need for a formal review of incidents and police brutality. Combined we are now seeing the denial of entry of press freedom and media advocates as another layer of control on the coverage of Hong Kong’s crisis. Such acts undoubtedly compromise freedom of speech and freedom of the press, which are vital components of a functioning democracy.”