Hong Kong: Journalist sentenced to prison for ‘disorderly behaviour’

Hong Kong journalist, Eric Wu Ka-Fai, was sentenced to 1 month in prison for disorderly behaviour at West Kowloon Magistrates Court on May 23. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) condemns the conviction and calls on Hong Kong’s authorities to cease the arbitrary jailing of journalists.

Journalist, Eric Wu Ka-Fai, was tried at West Kowloon Magistrates Court on May 23. Credit: Kelly Ho/HKFP.

Eric Wu Ka-Fai was detained by police on September 29, 2021 and released on bail the following day on three charges including willfully obstructing an on-duty police officer, refusing or willfully neglecting to obey an officer’s order, and behaving in a disorderly manner in a public space.

Magistrate Andy Cheng found Wu guilty of disorderly behaviour under the city’s public order ordinance. He was acquitted of the other two charges.

A reporter for independent news site HK Golden, Wu’s conviction arose from his coverage of police officers at a pro-democracy student event on April 15, 2021.

During a HK Golden livestream, Wu attempted to film police officers’ interactions with students at the Student Politicism booth, a pro-democracy student group that disbanded last year after several members were charged under the National Security Law.

In a video of the livestream, Wu is seen asking an officer if he intends to hit the students when the officer pulls a stick from a bag (later identified as a selfie stick). The officer says that “police don’t hit people”.

Wu responded by listing several examples of Hong Kong police misconduct and brutality including former police officer Frankly Chu King Wai’s assault of a bystander during the 2014 pro-democracy protests. Chu was sentenced to three months in prison after attacking a pedestrian with a baton.

Wu also cited the seven officers convicted of assaulting activist, Ken Tsang, and the allegations of police theft and sexual misconduct.

Magistrate Cheng said that Wu’s conduct was loud, and disruptive to the public order adding that Wu’s recount of alleged police misconduct could incite hatred and violence towards the police officers present.

Wu’s sentencing is the latest example of the legal restrictions imposed on media in Hong Kong. The IFJ’s report, ‘Lights Out: Is this the End of Press Freedom in Hong Kong?’, found that Hong Kong’s free media has rapidly deteriorated since the 2020 enactment of the National Security Law. News outlets have been increasingly forced to close or move offshore and news websites are routinely blocked.

The IFJ said: “The media plays a crucial role in demanding accountability from governments and authorities and journalists must be able to safely question  police and other officials without fear of legal repercussions. The IFJ calls for the immediate release of Eric Wu Ka-Fai and the dropping of all charges against him.”  

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

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

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