Around 10.30 pm Saturday (Sept 7), police officers were charging to drive away protesters and make arrests outside Pioneer Centre in Mongkok. With no protesters around, police officers sprayed pepper spray at reporters at the scene. Several frontline journalists were injured. We condemn police violence and taking journalists as their target of attack – deliberately and with hostilities – in obstructing reporters’ work. We urge Police to take the issue of frontline officers being unable to control their emotions and abuse of power seriously.
Around 10.30 pm, reporters who covered the police operation were driven away by police officers. Reporters kept a distance of about 10 meters from the place where police made arrests. They heeded police’s demand for them to position themselves at the pedestrian pavement. Suddenly, two officers from the Special Tactical Squad, or commonly known as Raptor, sprayed pepper spray. At least five photojournalists, two from HK01, one from AFP and two from Ming Pao and three reporters, one from Ming Pao and two from Cable TV. Two had sprayed on their faces.
We noted that reporters there were wearing passes and helmets emblazoned with the word, PRESS, which were easily identifiable. There were no protesters near the reporters. Reporters were retreating while police officers were making the requests. The sudden attack from police officers was unreasonable. Two officers had persistently sprayed at a bigger group of reporters, injuring more. A reporter at the scene heard from an officer who sprayed pepper spray saying, “shooting (pictures), so you like shooting.” It is clear the police officers were hostile towards the reporters. The acts of the two officers were close to an assault against journalists. We demand police to provide the identification of the two officers for reporters to lodge a formal complaint.
Police officers at the scene had not provided clear identification for reporters to lodge a complaint. Police’s media liaison officers were nowhere to be seen. Those who turned up late failed to perform their duty of liaison. They were also hostile when responding to journalists’ questions.
We condemn police’s abuse of the use of force and deliberately obstruct reporters’ work. We urge the police to take seriously the statements issued by us in the past three months. We urge the police to take the issue of frontline officers being unable to control their emotions and abuse of power seriously to coordinate with the work of frontline journalists for them to play their role of fourth power.
Hong Kong Press Photographers Association
Hong Kong Journalists Association
7 September 2019