A Hong Kong television producer appeared in court on Nov. 10 morning flanked by peers in media and local supporters, in a case that is widely viewed as an example of deteriorating press freedom in the Chinese-ruled city.
Choy Yuk-ling, also known as Bao Choy, is a 37-year-old freelance producer with local broadcaster RTHK. She was arrested on Nov. 3 on suspicion of making false statements to obtain vehicle records. The records were used to produce an RTHK documentary that examines the police’s slow response to a mob attack on commuters at the Yuen Long metro station on July 21 last year. She was released on bail.
The attackers, widely suspected of being triad members, were revealed by the documentary to be connected to local community leaders, based on car plate numbers caught on surveillance footage transporting the attackers.
On Nov. 10, Choy appeared for a court hearing in Fanling, a town in the New Territories area close to the border with mainland China, for suspected violations of Hong Kong’s Road Traffic Ordinance. Her case was adjourned until Jan. 14 next year.
Prior to her court hearing, Choy spoke to local media and thanked people who supported her during this difficult time.
“It has been a common practice for years that journalists do research or searches on cars, vehicles, and land for the purpose of journalism,” Choy said, questioning why the Hong Kong government wanted to “restrict the flow of information.”
She added: “I understand this incident is no longer a personal matter but a matter related to the public interest and press freedom in Hong Kong.”
Outside the courthouse, many people turned out to support Choy, including members of the RTHK Programme Staff Union and the local pro-democracy party League of Social Democrats. Lam Cheuk-ting, a lawmaker with the local Democratic Party, also showed up.
Together, Choy’s supporters held up placards with words like “Journalism is not a crime,” “Telling the truth is not a crime,” and “Who wants the public kept in the dark?” They also shouted slogans such as “Support Choy Yuk-ling, support journalists” and “Support freedom of the press.”
Daisy Li, editor-in-chief of a local news site called Citizens News, said the local media industry was angered by Choy’s case.
Seeing so many people of different age groups from the media profession turning up to support Choy, Li explained that it was a sign that the industry would not be intimidated.
Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam, speaking to the media on Friday during her trip to Beijing, declined to comment when asked about Choy’s case, according to RTHK. She added that her government would not suppress press freedom, but media workers “have to abide by the law.”
Choy’s case has sparked international criticism against the Hong Kong government and the Chinese Communist Party, which has increasingly encroached onto local affairs since the territory transferred from British to Chinese rule in 1997.
On Nov. 4, U.S. State Department’s deputy spokesperson Cale Brown condemned the arrest via a Twitter post, saying that “The Chinese Communist Party and their Hong Kong proxies must cease efforts to crush press freedom.”
Cédric Alviani, head of the East Asia bureau of the international media watchdog Reporters Without Borders, called on the Hong Kong government to uphold press freedoms in a statement issued on Nov. 6.
“The harassment of public media group RTHK is symbolic of the recent acceleration of press freedom’s decline after the passing, four months ago, of a National Security Law imposed by Beijing,” Alviani stated.
Beijing implemented its so-called “national security law” in Hong Kong that went into effect late on June 30, which punishes vaguely-defined crimes such as secession and subversion of the one-party communist state with a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.
He added: “The Hong Kong government would do better in making efforts to uphold press freedom, a value enshrined in Article 27 of the Basic Law [Hong Kong’s constitution], rather than trying to intimidate a media known for the quality and independence of its reporting.”
The Hong Kong bureau of The Epoch Times contributed to this report.