19 September 2019
Some observers have suggested that media personnel should be more proactive and deter the police from violent crowd control tactics. Photo: TVB
Some observers have suggested that media personnel should be more proactive and deter the police from violent crowd control tactics. Photo: TVB

Police beating: Could the media have stopped it?

An email from an old acquaintance (who is now a corporate PR heavyweight) landed in my inbox this morning, bearing the following message: 


I very nearly called Commercial Radio just now but my years of training of not talking to the press unless absolutely necessary prevailed…

This is to do with the police brutality yesterday. My point is since the incident lasted four minutes, what’s the stance of the media in terms of stopping it from continuing, rather than just filming it. I think there might have been an instance (or perhaps it was just a TV episode) where a man saw a person in the act of committing suicide (jumping off a bridge) and instead of trying to stop him, he filmed it. I guess perhaps the beating was not serious enough to warrant an interference but in a worst case scenario, Ken Tsang might have suffered a heart attack in the process and died…

How come this was not raised in the media coverage?

Your friend,

XXXX (Name withheld to protect the person’s privacy)


Now, I mentioned this email during our morning editorial meeting and discussed the issue with my colleagues.

After due thought, I prepared the following reply to my friend and dashed it off.

Dear (XXXX),

You raised an interesting and thorny question very similar to whether I should save my wife or my mother-in-law first at the sea.

I don’t know how to swim but I know the answer in a word: professionalism.

I recall we discussed this issue in journalism school, and I stood up and made a point.

Reporters always think they are jack of all trades, but honestly they know nothing except reporting. Just like doctors, whom we respect a lot, can’t do much else besides their work. 

In the economic class 101, there is a concept about comparative advantage which suggests reporters who do better in reports than saving lives should concentrate on telling the truth to the public.

Likewise, doctors should concentrate on saving lives.

If I were at a scene such as the one in the early hours of Wednesday, I would keep my camera rolling. Please forgive a 200 pound man who has no experience in street fighting.

When one can’t win or change a situation, it is better to do what one does best — getting the evidence and putting it out to the world.

Think about it. If there were no video, I doubt if the government would reconsider the things they have done. I do not think Raymond Tam, Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs, would come out and try to reopen a dialogue with protesters.

Honestly, you and I trust tycoon Li Ka-shing. When he said “go home”, we “go home”. He did not say “dialogue” so I presumed there will be “no dialogue”.

We all love justice. We should be proud of our reporters — especially the courageous TVB folks. They do not need clapping but they want to see justice done.

Please accept my salute for retaining your fire even in your 60s.




Within five minutes, I received her one-line reply:

– Understood but sometimes one has got to strike a balance on ‘being human’ and ‘a human being’.

As I mull the matter, let me now say that my heart goes out to the students and that I would like to dedicate this song to them.

– Contact us at [email protected]


A brutal attack by policemen on an unarmed protester Wednesday has caused outrage in Hong Kong. Photo: TVB

EJ Insight writer