17 February 2020
The alleged police abuses infringed on the press freedoms enshrined in the Basic Law, the HKJA said. Photo: Reuters
The alleged police abuses infringed on the press freedoms enshrined in the Basic Law, the HKJA said. Photo: Reuters

Probe sought into police abuses against journos during protests

A journalists’ group is urging Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor to set up an independent committee to conduct investigations into alleged police abuses against members of media outfits during recent demonstrations against the extradition bill.

The Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA) said 26 journalists have testified on 27 cases of alleged police abuses, adding that the incidents have not only caused “bodily harm” to journalists but have also “infringed upon the press freedoms enshrined in the Basic Law”, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.

In support of their complaints, the HKJA “has conducted interviews with all the journalists affected in all the cases for the sake of accuracy and authenticity” and there were also photographs and videos provided by the journalists and their peers who witnessed the incidents.

The cases, summarized by the HKJA, included police officers firing tear gas at journalists at close range, journalists being chased and then hit with batons by police officers which caused the journalists bodily harm or property loss, and journalists being searched by police officers without cause.

The police abuses took place even after the journalists have clearly informed the police that “they were members of the press”, and they “had displayed their press identification, including press cards, reflective vests or helmets with the word ‘PRESS’ inscribed”, the HKJA said.

As such, the association said it has sufficient reasons to believe that the officers involved in the cases “have overstepped [their] lawful powers in maintaining public order”.

“The scale and degree of these abuses cannot be explained with the stress caused by 30-hours work as suggested by the police”, the HKJA said in a press statement,

“An independent investigation is necessary to ascertain whether they were backed by top-level order,” it added.

The association said it has also filed a complaint regarding the matter with the Independent Police Complaints Council (IPCC).

“We sincerely look for not only a best effort probe but also recommendations from the IPCC on this identification issue in the future,” the HKJA said.

“A media that can do its job without fear is of utmost importance in the balance of police power and public safety as well as the protection of the public’s right to know,” it said.

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