Press Freedom in Hong Kong Is Not Improving and May Be Getting Worse: Journalists Association

Press Freedom in Hong Kong Is Not Improving and May Be Getting Worse: Journalists Association
Chairperson of the Hong Kong Journalists Ronson Chan Ron-sing was found guilty of obstructing police officers at the West Kowloon Court on Sept. 25, 2023. (Adrian Yu/The Epoch Times)

Chairperson of the Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA), Ronson Chan Ron-sing, was intercepted when he went to cover the owners’ meeting of Long Ping Estate in September 2022. He was accused of refusing to show his identity card and was charged with one count of “obstructing a police officer in the proper execution of her duties” and an alternate charge of “obstructing public officers.” He denied the charge but was found guilty on Sept. 25 at the West Kowloon Court and sentenced to five days in prison.

He applied for bail pending appeal and was granted. The HKJA expressed its deep regret over this verdict. The HKJA issued a statement in the evening, expressing its extreme regret that Mr. Chan, chairperson of the Hong Kong Journalists Association, was found guilty by the Magistrates Court of obstructing a police officer.

The Journalists Association believes the court’s ruling once again confirms that Hong Kong’s press freedom guaranteed by law has become empty talk. “Even if a reporter cooperates with the police’s request during an interview and attempts to exercise his basic rights as a citizen, he will still be convicted of a criminal offence.”

On Sept. 7, 2022, Mr. Chan went to the Macpherson Stadium in Mong Kok to report on a meeting of the property owners at Yuen Long’s Long Ping Estate. During that time, he was intercepted by two plainclothes police officers near the stadium who asked him to show his ID card.

The HKJA cited court testimony and stated that Mr. Chan had produced his ID card at the request of the police. During that period, Mr. Chan queried the plainclothes police officers’ identity, their team, and the reason for the interception, but was arrested by the police.

The HKJA continued: “According to court testimony, the interaction between Mr. Chan and the police lasted only 15 seconds. Police witnesses accused Mr. Chan of obstructing on the grounds that he was emotional and waving his hands. This statement was surprisingly accepted by the court.”

The HKJA’s statement also mentioned one past incident in which Mr. Chan’s ID card was shown by the police in front of the live broadcast camera. It also quoted the “Police Force Ordinance” saying that citizens who were stopped by the police have the right to ask the police officer(s) about the reason for the interception and any subsequent search. And the right to ask the police officer(s) involved to show their warrant card to prove their identity.

The HKJA stated that the incident showed that Hong Kong’s press freedom has not improved, or is even getting worse. “The police arrested a journalist conducting reporting work, exercising his basic rights, trying his best to cooperate with the police, and was then convicted by the court. It gives the outside world a strong signal that journalists are targeted and obstructed from normal news reporting in the name of the law.”

The HKJA reiterated its position, which has always been that reporters and police officers should respect each other when performing their duties and avoid hindering each other’s work. It also pointed out that for local journalists, being imprisoned for news reporting was pretty remote and faced mainly by reporters in other parts of the world, but it has now become a reality here. In conclusion the statement pointed out, “Including this case of the HKJA chairperson, there were at least seven local journalists sentenced to go behind bars since 2019, with the longest prison term reaching 32 months.” ​