Police pepper-sprayed journalists on purpose: HKJA

March 10, 2020 12:42
A police officer is seen pepper-spraying journalists in Tai Po and another officer knock a female journalist  to the ground with his shield in Tseung Kwan O on Sunday. Photo: i-CABLE News/Now News.

The Hong Kong Police Force has been accused of obstructing journalists covering clashes between protesters and officers in two public events on Sunday.

In a letter to Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, Chris Yeung Kin-hing, who heads the Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA), complained that officers pepper-sprayed journalists who were at the protest scene in Tai Po on purpose, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.

The police had used violence against protesters and had obstructed journalists from covering news for months but the chief executive only tried to defend the force instead of endeavoring to correct such errors, Yeung said.

The HKJA chairman urged Lam to require the force to punish officers who failed to comply with operational guidelines and the law and not to indulge the force in unreasonably hindering journalists from doing their work.

The Hong Kong News Executives' Association also said it was highly concerned about the police operations on Sunday, and asked Police Commissioner Chris Tang Ping-keung to look into what exactly happened, stressing that senior officials of the administration have a responsibility to take action on whoever violate rules.

The accusations against the police came after officers arrested about a hundred people during two dispersal operations on Sunday night.

Hundreds of protesters gathered near a car park in Tseung Kwan O to mourn the death of a Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) student following a police crackdown on anti-government protesters in November last year.

A march was also held around the Tin Hau Temple Fung Shui Square in Tai Po with hundreds of protesters opposing a government move to designate a clinic in the neighborhood for treatment of potential novel coronavirus patients.

Police told a news conference on Monday that 63 people, including 46 men and 17 women, aged 14 to 37, were arrested in Tseung Kwan O, and 22 people, including 16 men and six women, aged 13 to 68, were arrested in Tai Po.

All of them will face charges including unlawful assembly, possession of imitation firearm, and possession of instrument fit for unlawful purpose, police said, adding that the Regional Crime Unit of Kowloon East and the District Crime Squad of Tai Po District are following up on the cases, respectively.

At the news conference, Cable TV complained that a riot police officer had injured one of their reporters by knocking her to the ground with his shield in Tseung Kwan O.

Police said it happened because the situation was chaotic at the time.

In response to Cable TV's request for explanations, the force's public relations bureau offered sympathy to the injured reporter but pointed out those who were at the scene should have avoided obstructing officers so as not to get hurt.

Cable TV said the police explanations were not acceptable and asked the police to disclose the identity of the officer in question as well as the results of the investigation.

In a letter sent to the TV broadcaster later, the police said the officer's action was not intentional and expressed regret about what happened.

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