Hong Kong police on Nov. 3 arrested a reporter who produced a television program exposing the police force’s delayed response to a violent mob attack on pro-democracy protesters in 2019, further stoking fears of a crackdown on free press in the city.
Choy Yuk-ling, also known as Bao Choy, is a producer at Hong Kong’s public broadcaster RTHK. She was arrested at her home on suspicion of making false statements while conducting a vehicle registration search, which was related to her TV investigation, according to police.
The offense carries a fine of up to HK$5,000 (about $645) and six months in prison.
Choy co-produced an investigative report on the RTHK program “Hong Kong Connections,” examining the police’s slow response to an attack on pro-democracy protesters at the Yuen Long train station on July 21, 2019.
The incident involved a group of men in white T-shirts and carrying sticks and metal bars indiscriminately attacking commuters and protesters returning from a pro-democracy rally, leaving at least 45 people injured. After calls for assistance, the police took 39 minutes to arrive on the scene.
Pro-democracy activists have alleged police collusion with the white-shirted men, widely suspected of being triad members; police have denied the claims.
The RTHK documentary that aired a year after the attack pieced together the incident using video footage from nearby shops, tracing license plates of cars shown in surveillance footage, and interviews with locals. It found that plainclothes police were in the area shortly before the attacks erupted. The report also traced the cars transporting suspected attackers to community leaders in neighboring towns.
Police later admitted that undercover police officers had been in the Yuen Long area to “observe the situation.” In August, the police changed its narrative regarding the attack, describing it as a “clash” between two “equally-matched” sides.
Speaking to reporters on Nov. 3, RTHK chief Leung Ka-wing said he was “worried [about] whether we can continue the way we produce accurate news as before.” When asked by reporters if RTHK would put on hold future investigative reporting, he asked, “Why should we stop?”
Several pro-democracy lawmakers decried the arrest as a blatant attack on Hong Kong’s press freedoms. Civic Party leader Alvin Yeung also questioned whether authorities were taking “revenge” on Choy for investigating the incident.
Democratic Party lawmaker Lam Cheuk-ting, who was among those injured in the Yuen Long violence, urged journalists to not be cowed by the arrest.
“I do think that the police operation will inevitably create a chilling effect … Those journalists who dare to report any wrongdoings of the government officials or the pro-establishment camp have been facing great pressure, and I urge them to stand firm and report the truth … without fear or favor,” Lam said.
Beijing has tightened its grip on Hong Kong since a national security law was imposed in July, with many pro-democracy lawmakers, activists, and media workers caught in the crosshairs. In August, media mogul Jimmy Lai, who owns pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily, was arrested and 200 officers raided the paper’s newsroom on the same day. Lai was charged on suspicion of collusion with a foreign country or external elements to endanger China’s national security.
This week, eight pro-democracy politicians were arrested over a scuffle with pro-Beijing lawmakers in the city’s legislature on May 8.
A previous version of this article misrepresented the number of current or former lawmakers who were arrested. One of them has never served as a lawmaker. The Epoch Times regrets the error.