Photographer Arrested While Reporting Protest in Hong Kong
A reporter intern for New York-based New Tang Dynasty Television (NTD TV) was arrested while covering a July 1 protest in Hong Kong. Her colleagues are asking whether the police in making the arrest were targeting NTD.
July 1 was a day of protest in Hong Kong. A huge crowd turned out for a march and rally—218,000 people according to the march organizers. Anxiety over the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP’s) threat to Hong Kong’s liberties was thought to have brought people out onto the street .
After the rally ended, over 1,000 demonstrators from two organizations stayed on, one group sitting on the streets in the Wan Chai District and one in the Central District. The protestors chanted slogans and protested the proposed scrapping of Legislative Council by-elections and the abuse of the expropriation of land for development—what the protestors call “real estate hegemony.”
Ms. Wenwen Cai, an environmental science student at the City University of Hong Kong, had just this summer begun her internship at the NTD bureau in Hong Kong.
At 11 p.m. she was sent to report on the protest in the Central District.
Inconsistent Police Actions
The police had set up a blockade line and taking photos of the protest proved difficult. Cai said that a police officer saw her and told the officers forming the line in front of her to let her enter so that she could take photos. They then let her in.
After midnight, the police moved in and began arresting the protesters .
Cai said, “Never did I think that after the police carried away the protesters, they would ask me for identification and arrest me.” Cai did not have her ID with her at the time.
When she was boarding the police vehicle, a policewoman told her that when they arrived at the station she would be able to leave as soon as her company faxed a document confirming her identity. The bureau promptly faxed her identity document to the Aberdeen Police Station, but the police said that they needed to further investigate and refused to release Cai.
Cai said that a police officer at the Aberdeen Police Station pressed her to sign a statement, but the statement only contained testimony from the officer accusing her. After being detained for several hours, when she was really tired, the police misled Cai into giving fingerprints.
“They were rushing me to sign some documents,” Cai said. “They kept on rushing me even when I just wanted to take a closer look, and they were obviously lying to me. For example, they misled me to believe that I had to give fingerprints.”
The police told Cai that she must pay bail to be released, but she was eventually released on her own recognizance after 11 a.m. on July 2—12 hours after she had first left for the Central District protest. She is required to report back to the police station in early December.
The police later claimed that everyone who was arrested was a protester sitting on the ground and refusing to leave. Among them was one who claimed to be a reporter, the police said.
Zhu Changmin, the head of NTD’s bureau in Hong Kong, strongly condemned the police officers’ actions. He said, “In this incident the police are obviously creating difficulties, causing interference, and repressing the news industry. The possibility of the police selectively targeting our TV station cannot be ruled out.”
Zhu also said that other media had reporters blocked or treated roughly by police, but only the NTD reporter had been arrested and detained over night.
“Whether there was an order from higher levels or even from Beijing is thought-provoking,” Zhu said.
Zhu demanded the police immediately and unconditionally withdraw the case against Cai and make a public apology. He hopes that the Hong Kong government can ensure that the right of members of the media to interview and the freedoms of press and of speech will be fully respected and implemented in the future.
According to a media expert, this is the first time a reporter has been arrested by police in Hong Kong during a regular interview.
The Hong Kong Journalists Association and the International Federation of Journalists are both paying close attention to this incident. They both said that they would later issue a statement regarding the incident.
Serenade Woo, the International Federation of Journalists’ representative for Hong Kong and China, said that the obstruction of reporter doing her job clearly raised suspicions that police power had been abused.
Woo said that for demonstrations and protests in Hong Kong, the police often would not assist the protesters or the reporters, but they would interfere with or hinder the reporters’ interviews, “and this situation is a lot more obvious this year.”
Gao Yu, a Beijing journalist and two time Courage in Journalism Award winner, said that the arrest of Cai by the Hong Kong police demonstrates the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is very afraid of media outside China and is especially fearful of independent media like NTD that dare to speak the truth.
“The CCP actively promotes propaganda abroad in order to compete for the right to speak overseas. NTD TV is a media company set up by Chinese people overseas and speaks the truth abroad, so the CCP is bent on suppressing it,” Gao said.
However, Gao stressed that such suppression can only backfire. “This will arouse more Hong Kong people to defend freedom and law in Hong Kong,” she said.
Read the original Chinese article.