The Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA) has strongly condemned two rugby fans who kissed a sports reporter while she was conducting a live broadcast at the Rugby Sevens finals on Sunday.

In a clip uploaded to Facebook, two men standing behind i-Cable anchor Diamond Kwok glance at each other before leaning down to kiss Kwok on the cheeks for about two seconds. She grimaces and raises both arms as if to push them away.

Afterwards, Kwok said she felt it was unacceptable, but that there was not much she could do. She added that she did not think she had been sexually harassed and that she had not interacted with the two men before the incident.

On Thursday, the HKJA gave its strong condemnation of the incident. “The association stresses that journalists should not meet with any disturbance or disrespectful treatment while doing their jobs, and the incident potentially involves sexual harassment,” it said in a statement.

Asked to respond to the incident, i-Cable’s Executive Director Ronald Chiu Ying-chun told HK01 on Monday: “Everyone understands the environment at the time, on the south stand it’s basically a carnival, so even if it happened, everyone should just laugh about it.”

Later he told Ming Pao that the company would cooperate with Kwok if she expressed any needs.

“The association is also concerned that i-Cable executive[s] thought the matter could be laughed off, and did not seem to have handled it seriously – the association expresses regret. The association believes that media outlets have the responsibility to ensure the safety of frontline journalists, and provide appropriate support.”

The association added that it respects Kwok’s wishes and said it would provide assistance if required.

‘A harassing nature’

Speaking on an RTHK show on Thursday, Equal Opportunities Commission chair Alfred Chan said that the actions of the two men were “definitely of a harassing nature,” but the situation is probably not covered by the Sexual Discrimination Ordinance.

alfred chan
Alfred Chan. File photo: Karen Cheung/HKFP.

“Whether the parties were acquainted or not, if the person involved [Kwok] has not expressed consent or acceptance, then it is behaviour of an insulting or harassing nature.”

However, as the SDO only protects against discrimination in formal settings such as the workplace, schools, and during the provision of goods and services, the situation at the rugby match probably does not fall under its protection. Chan said Kwok could consider reporting the case to the police.

See also: Hong Kong women face dead end in battle against street harassment

Chan said there were gaps in the law that should be remedied. He said the commission submitted suggestions to improve the law to the government last year, but they have not been implemented yet.

The ordinance was originally formulated to counter discriminatory behaviours in the workplace, and may not cover other forms of harassment, he said.

He also rejected a suggestion that cultural differences may have resulted in a misunderstanding, as westerners may be more accepting of such contact. He referred to the reaction of Brazilian reporter Bruna Dealtry, who condemned a shirtless man for forcibly kissing her while she was reporting on a football match. The incident launched a movement with the hashtag #deixaelatrabalhar – let her do her job – in Brazil.

Chan said the case shows that “there’s no way to use so-called cultural differences to cover up the seriousness [of such incidences].’”

Catherine is a Canadian journalist and photographer who lived in Beijing for almost two years, working in TV and online media. Aside from Hong Kong and mainland affairs, she is also interested in urban spaces, art and feminism. She holds a BA in Literature and Art History from the University of British Columbia.