The Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA) has condemned the police, saying it drove away journalists from reporting duties during scenes of unrest in the early hours of Monday.

Sunday’s largely peaceful “million-strong” march saw Hong Kong Island come to standstill as protesters demanded Chief Executive Carrie Lam step down and the looming extradition bill be scrapped. As the protest permit expired, clashes between police and demonstrators broke out around the legislature and government headquarters, with pepper spray deployed and 19 arrests.

The HKJA said that, as police removed roadblocks and dispersed protesters from Lung Wo Road using force, reporters and photographers from various media organisations were unreasonably removed from the scene by police.

Photo: Kris Cheng/HKFP.

“HKJA made a solemn protest against the police for totally ignoring the safety of journalists and severely trampling on their right to reporting. We urge the police to investigate the incident and provide a satisfactory explanation,” it said in a statement. The HKJA has requested a meeting with police chief Steven Lo.

The association cited some journalists as saying they were insulted by police officers, who called them “trash.” When dispersing reporters, officers reportedly shouted, “reporters have no special privilege.”

HKFP witnessed officers using flashlights to interfere with reporters’ work, whilst pushing them towards barriers.

In one case, police claimed that they suspected a Stand News reporter was in possession of offensive weapons. Lam Yin-pong was carrying a press card, but had his backpack searched by officers.

🔴HKFP Live: Police have demanded reporters leave the protest scene, as they push westwards towards City Hall in Central. Full coverage: Pictures:

Posted by Hong Kong Free Press HKFP on Sunday, 9 June 2019

Lam wrote that a police officer saw five bottles of water in his backpack, and asked: “Why do you carry so much water? Are you going to throw them at us?” Lam replied that they were for his reporter colleagues.

Lam, a former reporter for major news outlet TVB, wrote: “Such reporting experience was familiar to me north of the Shenzhen River. But I did not think that I would experience this in Hong Kong once again – and I am afraid it will happen many times more.”

Asked about the statement at a press conference on Monday, Police Public Relations Branch Senior Superintendent Kong Wing-cheung said the police have always been respectful of press freedom.

Photo: Kris Cheng/HKFP.

He said the guidelines for officers in assisting news coverage has not changed.

“I welcome more exchange in the future if individual media [outlets] believe there is a problem,” he said. “I hope we will work better with each other in the long run.”

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Kris Cheng

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.