The Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA) has issued an open letter to Police Commissioner Chris Tang, pleading for an end to the interference, obstruction, and violence meted out by his officers against reporters.
The association’s chairman, Chris Yeung, said although the number of people taking part in anti-government protests had significantly dropped and the atmosphere at protests had become calmer in view of the coronavirus outbreak, police officers are still targeting journalists working on the frontline.
“We’re angry and we don’t understand. Pepper-spraying journalists has become commonplace,” he said.
Yeung said the interference, insults and violence encountered by journalists from police officers have been escalating, despite the numerous statements and appeals issued by the association.
“Since June, the government and you have never tried to understand the threats faced by journalists, nor have you restrained frontline officers’ action. We feel we’ve been talking to the air. The situation has deteriorated,” Yeung wrote to Tang.
Yeung cited an incident on February 23 in which an RTHK journalist was intercepted by riot police in Tuen Mun even though she was wearing a reflective vest and displaying her press card.
He said the journalist was surrounded by 10 riot police officers and ordered to take everything out of her bag for a check. She was also told to stop recording a video at the time.
Yeung questioned why police officers have been frequently intercepting and searching journalists when they are only supposed to search people they suspect of committing a crime. He added that it is time for officers to stop seeing media workers as their enemies.
In response to the letter, Tang said the force respects press freedom and would never target reporters.
But he stressed a need for reporters to maintain a "safe distance" from officers, noting that at one protest, an officer was slashed across the neck. He said officers have to be careful when it comes to people wearing press vests, as they have encountered "fake reporters" in the past.