The police have dismissed allegations that they launched an attack on the media with their arrest on Tuesday of an RTHK producer who worked on programmes about the Yuen Long gang rampage last year.
Bao Choy has been charged with violating the Road Traffic Ordinance by allegedly making false statements when conducting vehicle registration searches to find the owners of vehicles seen carrying some of the suspected perpetrators of the violence.
Pan-democratic lawmakers, academics and several journalists' associations have expressed alarm over Choy's arrest and questioned whether the police are trying to clamp down on freedom of the press, or rein in the public broadcaster which pro-Beijing groups accuse of being biased against the government.
But speaking on an RTHK programme, the head of the force's public relations branch, chief superintendent Kwok Ka-chuen said the police respect press freedom and understand public concern over the arrest.
But Kwok said officers were obliged to take action. "If someone violates the law, the police must take action,” he said.
He also denied that the police intentionally carried out the arrest in a high-profile manner by raiding Choy's home in Mei Foo.
The chief superintendent said there was a need to look for evidence in her apartment, and officers had sought advice from the Department of Justice before taking action.
Security secretary John Lee also defended the police action, saying it was never the intention of the force to attack the media.
Speaking to reporters after attending a Legco meeting, he said it was officers' responsibility to follow up on complaints made by members of the public.
"This is a case which is investigated as a result of a complaint. So if police receive a complaint, they have to act accordingly and do an investigation according to what the complaint is all about. So it is a reactive investigation as a result of a complaint," Lee said.
"It is the case's circumstances which decide which is the subject of investigation. This is no different from any (other) investigation that police has been doing as a result of a complaint."
Since the Yuen Long attack on July 21 last year, RTHK has produced two Hong Kong Connection documentaries which revealed how police had witnessed gangs of men gathering in the town with weapons, but failed to prevent the violence or come to the aid of the many victims.