Dear Chief Executive Mrs Carrie Lam,
We have sent letters earlier to you and the Commissioner for Police Mr Chris Tang separately regarding police violence towards journalists. In your reply, you said the Government respects press freedom. Judging from the behaviours of some riot police officers, the opposite is true. Last night, there were several cases of assault of journalists by police officers – again. As head of the Hong Kong SAR, how can you turn a blind eye to the collective violation of law by the Police? We urge you to take immediate action to rectify the black sheeps in the police force in order to rebuild public trust towards the Police.
Yesterday marked the eight-month anniversary of the July 21 incident in Yuen Long. A large number of people had gathered and staged marches in different districts, followed by clashes between the police and civilians. On various occasions, riot police officers targeted journalists during their clearance of the crowd. In Yuen Long, some riot police officers had suddenly advanced towards reporters and ordered them to return to the pavement. At the same time, they sprayed pepper spray at several reporters. Some suffered skin and eye injuries. Some had breathing difficulties. Most of them had already stayed on the pavement. Some police officers had ordered reporters who were receiving medical treatment to leave. They questioned whether those reporters were pretending to be suffering from injuries.
On another occasion, some reporters were taking video near a carpark. Some police officers used strong lights to obstruct their reporting. They were ordered to leave or face arrests on charges of unlawful assembly. The officers had used the excuse of protecting the privacy rights of people who were arrested to stop reporters from taking videos. During an arrest operation near Fung Cheung Street, some riot police officers had sprayed pepper spray at a group of journalists. One was grabbed and pulled away by a police officer forcefully. Another group of reporters who covered a clash near Times Square in Causeway Bay had also become the target of pepper spray by the police.
Mr Chris Tang has maintained frontline police officers had not targeted journalists. You have called on journalists to be understanding and tolerant towards the police. But one case after another relating to police violence has occurred since June last year, showing clearly they are not isolated cases. They are nothing but collective violations of law by riot police officers targeting journalists.
“Tolerance” will only become connivance if police officers forget about the Police General Orders, in which there are rules governing the use of weapons by officers. Those who fail to differentiate between reporters and protesters, or worse, be abiding by the law, are not fit to do the job of law-enforcement. We urge you to order the Commissioner for Police to retrain or sack those officers. This is to avoid those unfit police officers causing more harm to reporters and press freedom.
Hong Kong Journalists Association
22 March 2020