Hong Kong police breach Police General Orders

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) strongly criticizes the recent actions of the  Hong Kong police against a number of journalists in Mong Kok. As police tried to clear Occupy Movement protesters from the streets of Mong Kok, journalists were threatened with arrest confronted by police as they reported on the situation.

On the night of November 25, a member of a Now Television crew was accused of “assaulting a police officer” and pushed to the ground by several officers. According to footage taken by Now, there was a chaos after police used pepper spray to disperse dozens of peaceful protesters. One officer tried to take a ladder away from the Now crew while the team was reporting. A crew member, surnamed Li, defended the ladder, and then tried to leave the scene. Suddenly a police officer grabbed him from behind and shoved him to the ground. Dozens of officers surrounded Li, and ignored him and his colleagues when they repeatedly called out that they were journalists. Li sustained a black eye and injuries to his body.

In a press conference, police claimed the police officer’s right leg was injured by the ladder but gave no evidence to prove this claim. Now Television issued a statement of regret and the IFJ’s affiliate, the Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA), condemned the police action. Li was detained without charge for 24 hours and released. He said police did not have enough evidence to prove the allegations against him. Li said: “I have never used violence in my work in the past and never will.” The police said they will charge Li if they can collect more evidence.

A photographer with Oriental Daily was threatened with arrest if he continued to use flash to take photos of police clearing the demonstration. In the early hours of November 26, a senior police officer claimed the photographer had used his flash many times, thereby irritating the officers’ eyes. Police said: “Don’t use your flash - otherwise I will arrest you!” Police insisted on recording details of the photographer’s personal identity before allowing him to leave.

A crew from another Hong Kong-based television station, Asia Television, were threatened with arrest by a station sergeant if they continued to film the clearance action.

Many journalists, including Isabella Steger of The Wall Street Journal, were shoved and jostled by Hong Kong police. Many were affected by pepper spray, which made it impossible for them to continue reporting.

When journalists asked at which police stations the 148 people arrested would be detained, the police refused to answer. The protesters arrested included student leaders Joshua Wong, the convener of activist group Scholarism; Lester Shum and Jason Szeto Tsz-Long of Hong Kong Federation of Students; and Leung Kwok-Hung and Raphael Wong, the Chairperson and Vice-Chairperson of the League of Social Democrats.

The IFJ Asia Pacific Office said: “It is very concerning that Hong Kong police are expanding their powers but ignoring their responsibilities towards the public and media. According to Chapter 39 of the Police General Orders, all officers at the scene of an incident shall ‘facilitate the work of the news media as much as possible and accord media representatives consideration and courtesy; and not block camera lenses’.

“The media is a watchdog and it is their duty to prevent civil servants abusing their powers. The Hong Kong police have clearly forgotten they are under surveillance by the public, and are instead expanding their powers over others.”

We urge Hong Kong’s Secretary of Security, Lai Tung-Kwok, and Hong Kong Police Commissioner, Andy Tsang Wai-Hung, to stop paying lip service to the rule of law. Government is subject to the law, just as citizens are.

We urge the High Commissioner of Human Rights of United Nation, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, and all international human rights organizations, as well as the governments of Britain and the United States, to continue to monitor the situation in Hong Kong and express their concern to the Chief Executive of Hong Kong, Leung Chun-Ying, and the President of China, Xi Jinping.

The action took place on November 25 and 26 when dozens of bailiffs, supported by thousands of police officers, tried to clear protest zones at Mong Kok on Kowloon. Thousands of peaceful protesters were gathered on the street, where police accused them of illegal assembly and tried to disperse and arrest them by force.

For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +61 2 9333 0946 

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

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