The Foreign Correspondents’ Club, Hong Kong, the Hong Kong Press Photographers Association and the Hong Kong Journalists Association are together urging Thai authorities to drop the prosecution of a Hong Kong photojournalist, charged with carrying body armour and a helmet, and to release him immediately.
We are dismayed by the decision to go ahead with the prosecution of Anthony Kwan Hok Chun, who was assigned by Initium Media Technology to cover the aftermath of the Erawan shrine bombing on 17 August in which two Hong Kong residents were killed and six injured. Kwan was arrested on 23 August while attempting to board a return flight to Hong Kong.
In a hearing today, Thai court informed Kwan he has been charged with having in possession of arms with no permission, according to Annie Zhang, Executive Chief Editor of Initium. He was granted bail and his passport has been returned to him. He will appear in court again on 16 November 2015.
Protective vests and helmets of the type in Mr Kwan’s possession are standard gear for reporters working in dangerous areas around the world. He was carrying a bulletproof vest in his hand luggage when arrested.
The gear Mr Kwan was carrying when attempting to leave the country are considered “weapons” under Thai law. He was initially charged under the 1967 Arms Control Act and was to be tried in a military court. The offense carries a prison sentence of up to five years. He was granted him bail of 100,000 Thai Baht (c. HK$21,000), but barred him from leaving the country. Subsequently, however, his case was switched to the civilian courts and on 17 September a court ordered his travel documents returned. He was granted permission to leave the country but has remained pending his next court hearing.
We urge Thai authorities to drop the criminal case against Mr Kwan. We also strongly urge them to work with the news media in Thailand to decriminalise the legitimate use of body armour and related protective items.
We also urge the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government to push for the quashing of any charges against Kwan.
Hong Kong Press Photographers Association
Hong Kong Journalists Association
The Foreign Correspondents’ Club, Hong Kong
12 October 2015
(Photo provided by Initium Media)