An RTHK producer has appeared in court accused of violating the Road Traffic Ordinance in relation to the public broadcaster's efforts to trace those behind the vicious mob attack in Yuen Long on July 21 last year.
Bao Choy, 37, was flanked by colleagues and other supporters at she attended the hearing at Fanling Magistracy on Tuesday morning.
She was arrested last week and charged with two counts of violating the ordinance by allegedly making false statements when conducting vehicle registration searches.
The searches, for a Hong Kong Connection documentary on the Yuen Long violence, were to find the owners of cars seen carrying some of the suspected perpetrators of the gang attack.
The magistrate adjourned the case until January 14 to give the police more time for their investigation. Choy was released on bail.
Members of the RTHK Programme Staff Union, as well as pro-democracy activists and other members of the public showed up for the court hearing to support Choy.
Some of them held up placards which read “Without fear or favour”, “Journalism is not a crime”, and “Who wants the public kept in the dark?”.
Before going into court, Choy said that vehicle and land searches are essential tools when it comes to investigative journalism.
“It has been a common practice for years that journalists do research or searches on cars, vehicles and land for the purpose of journalism,” she said. “I didn’t see any reason why the government has to restrict the flow of information.”
“A lot of scholars, unions and lawyers have expressed their concerns and worries as to whether the police are trying to use the law to suppress press freedom, and whether journalists will still be free in the future to obtain public information. I would urge the government to listen to the voices and opinions in society,” said Choy.
"I understand this incident is no longer a personal matter but a matter related to public interest and press freedom in Hong Kong... I truly believe I will not walk alone."
RTHK's documentaries on the Yuen Long attack revealed how police officers had been patrolling the town as gangs of men roamed the streets carrying weapons. Despite seeing what was going on, the force took no action to intervene and failed to respond when the beatings eventually began in the area's MTR station.
Dozens of people were put in hospital by the indiscriminate attack.
Without providing any evidence, police claimed this year that the violence was in fact a fight between two "equally matched" sides, as they arrested and charged some of the victims with rioting.