Dear Mrs Lam,
Over the past nine months, countless reporters had been humiliated and injured by police officers during their reporting of the clashes between the police and protesters. Most of those who acted violently towards reporters were frontline police officers. For that, we have issued countless statements, made numerous appeals to the Commissioner for Police Mr Chris Tang Ping-keung, copies of which have been sent to you. The replies were nothing but cliches. Yesterday (Sunday), a riot police officer pushed a reporter to the ground with his shield during an operation in Tseung Kwan O. Some officers sprayed pepper spray at reporters.
Time and again you have assured you respect press freedom and that the police will enforce law in accordance with the law and the regulations. Judging from numerous cases, the opposite is true. Is it a case that you, as the Chief Executive, are unable to constrain the police? Or you deliberately condone their use of force at their will? What happened with your pledge of upholding press freedom? We urge you to take immediate action to rectify the police force, punish officers who have violated laws and regulations and those who have attacked reporters.
In our open letter to Mr Tang dated March 2, we have stated the police have continuously targeted reporters, abusing the use of force and making unreasonable obstruction of their work. They have conducted mass searches of reporters, who were doing reporting at the time. Police should have given a clear explanation and corrected their mistakes. But Police management merely repeated what they have said in their replies. They have tried to dilute their wrongdoings by claiming their verbal abuses and attacks, use of pepper spray and firing of bullets were mistakenly done. Their explanation is weak. We have already refuted their claims on our social media platform.
Just five days after Mr Tang replied to us, reporters had again become the target of police attacks on Sunday. A female reporter, who wore a vest and carried a press card plus a helmet, was pushed to the ground from behind by a riot officer. The reporter’s head hit the ground. She felt dizzy and needed emergency treatment. Several cameramen from televisions news stations were sprayed by pepper spray from police officers.
Facts speaks. Police’s crackdown against reporters has never been eased. Faced with verbal abuses, obstruction and attacks by police officers, reporters had not fought back. But we refused to keep silence as we strove to do our job of telling the truth.
You have made a public commitment of upholding press freedom, which is one of the cornerstones of Hong Kong’s success. Please do not condone the Police. Stop the unlawful obstruction of reporting by the police. We are happy to give more details of the plight of journalists if and when it is deeded necessary.
Hong Kong Journalists Association