On November 7, veteran journalist Bao Choy Yuk Ling lost her appeal against two counts of ‘knowingly making false statements’ through improperly accessing vehicle ownership records in her production of a 2019 documentary. High Court Judge Alex Lee upheld Choy’s 2021 conviction, fining the former Radio Television Hong Kong (RTHK) producer HKD 6000.
Lee said in a 34-page statement that Choy had provided false information to authorities by inappropriately requesting vehicle ownership records for journalistic purposes. To access vehicle ownership records in Hong Kong, applicants must declare one of three stated purposes; legal matters, vehicle purchase or other transport or traffic-related matters; Choy selected the final option. The database now no longer has a mechanism legally appropriate for journalists and media workers.
The decision has provoked concerns about press freedom in Hong Kong from journalists and media rights organisations. Following her lost appeal, Choy expressed her disappointment, saying that her conviction has deep ramifications for journalistic practice and access to information in Hong Kong. In an official statement, the Hong Kong Journalists Association expressed its deep concern and disappointment at the verdict, saying it will hinder future investigative journalism and weaken the media’s monitoring and truth-seeking capabilities.
Choy was first arrested in November 2020 on two counts of making false statements to attain public records. Choy was producing an episode of RTHK’s documentary program, Hong Kong Connection, which focused on accusations that the Hong Kong Police sided with a mob attack on pro-democracy protestors at the Yuen Long MTR station in July 2019.
In October 2022, the IFJ released a report, The Story That Won’t Be Silenced: Hong Kong Freedom of Expression Report 2022, which has documented the decline of press freedom in Hong Kong since the introduction of the city’s National Security Law in 2020. The report details the challenges facing independent media in Hong Kong, including the infiltration of Choy’s former network, Radio Television Hong Kong.
The IFJ said: The IFJ condemns the effective criminalisation of journalistic practice in Hong Kong. The Hong Kong authorities must fulfil their Basic Law obligations to protect freedom of expression and overturn Bao Choy’s conviction.