Hong Kong police have warned that journalists will be evicted from handover event venues for any actions not related to reporting.

“If the conduct is unrelated to reporting duties, we will ask the journalist to leave,” chief superintendent Fok Lok-sang said Tuesday during a media session on police arrangements during a three-day visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Fok Lok-sang. Photo: i-Cable screenshot.

“We will not tell you what individual behaviour is permitted and what is not,” he said. “We will look at the overall situation – even if you are just asking questions or doing something else – we will look at the environment and whether the situation is related to reporting or other purposes.”

Assistant Police Commissioner Cheng Yiu-mo cited protesting as one example of an action that would warrant eviction. “If you want to protest, go to the designated zone for protesters. Don’t stay in the media area,” he said.

“If reporters do things that go against their role, we cannot let them stay in the media area.”

Asked whether reporters in the media area will be able to speak to Xi and other officials, Cheng said it was not the force’s priority. Instead, he said, the location of the media area during the events will be decided based on the police’s risk assessments.

The media area during the chief executive election. Photo: HKFP.

During a visit by then-Chinese president Hu Jintao to Hong Kong in 2012, a reporter from pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily was taken away by plainclothes police after asking Hu to comment on the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown. The massacre is a taboo subject in mainland China.

The reporter was detained for 15 minutes and released after Hu left the venue. At the time, Hong Kong police were heavily criticised for suppressing press freedom.

Security lockdown

Hong Kong law enforcement agents have been conducting a series of drills and setting up security measures ahead of Xi’s visit, citing terrorist threats.

Giant barricades have appeared near the Grand Hyatt hotel – where Xi is thought to be staying – and the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre, where a number of handover events will be held.

On Tuesday, Cheng said the anti-terror measures were put in place to protect members of the public.

He said police had requested that the Civil Aviation Department set up a temporary no-drone zone above Victoria Harbour during Xi’s visit. He said any use of drones – such as for taking videos and displaying banners – will be treated as a terrorist act.

He added that the area north of the Convention and Exhibition Centre will be closed to the public during Xi’s visit. He warned of “serious traffic congestion” in Admiralty and northern Wan Chai during events.

Xi is scheduled to arrive in Hong Kong on Thursday.

Ellie Ng

Ellie Ng has written for Foreign Policy, the Daily Telegraph, Global Voices Online and others.