The head of Hong Kong’s photojournalist union has resigned following a controversy surrounding his conduct and an alleged police tip-off.

Over the weekend, accusations were widely shared on social media about Hong Kong Press Photographers Association (HKPPA) chair Edwin Kwok, prompting the union to call a special meeting on Monday to discuss the concerns.

Kwok admitted that there were “deficiencies” in his work and tendered his resignation, effective immediately, according to a Monday evening statement from the HKPAA.

Edwin Kwok
Edwin Kwok.

Members then voted to oust him from the union in a non-binding motion. The motion received 52 “yes” votes, two “no” votes, five abstentions and one invalid ballot.

“The HKPPA is disappointed by the incident, which has caused the public to have doubts over photojournalists – we hope to rebuild trust in our members and the public in the future,” the union’s Monday statement said.

Professional misconduct

A key accusation against Kwok was that he took photos of protesters’ faces and sent them to the police. However, Kwok denied the allegation, and the HKPAA said there was not enough evidence to prove he did so.

The union issued another statement on Tuesday morning describing other accusations made at their Monday meeting.

At the meeting, a member accused Kwok of failing to fight for a reasonable environment for photojournalists to cover the recent anti-extradition bill protests. Police had been criticised for blocking photojournalists from taking pictures.

Another member accused him of informing the police that dangerous goods had been found at a protest site on June 12 – an act which violated journalists’ non-intervention guidelines.

police press conference
Police press conference on June 13.

The HKPPA also said in its Tuesday statement that members were “extremely disappointed” that Kwok had failed to discuss with executive committee members a protest that journalists had planned to stage at a police chief press conference. At the conference on June 13, journalists wore protective gear in protest of police treatment. Kwok, however, did not join members in taking part in the stunt.

A member said that Kwok met with a Police Public Relations Branch representative to discuss the treatment of members on his own, without notifying other executive committee members.

Kwok was elected last year as the chair when he was a photojournalist for the Sing Tao Daily. He is now a freelance photojournalist.

The HKPPA Tuesday statement did not give details of Kwok’s response to the accusations. HKFP has reached out to him for comment.

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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.