A group of journalists conducted a silent protest action at Monday’s regular police press conference, following the arrest of two media staffers on Sunday.

The force cut its live feed of the event after around two minutes, and cancelled the press conference entirely after around 20 minutes.

police press conference protest
Photo: RTHK screenshot.

At the 4pm press event, six journalists sat on the front row and donned their safety helmets.

Chinese characters on their helmets combined to read “Investigate police violence, stop police lies.” The six were from Stand News, Ming Pao, RTHK, In-Media, Initium, and am730.

Police Public Relations Branch superintendent Bon Ko and the press conference moderator suspended the event after the reporters refused to remove the slogans from their helmets. The moderator asked the six to leave, but they refused.

“We did not do anything that interfered with the press conference – why do we have to leave?” one asked.

journalists protest
Photo: Stand News.

Ko responded: “This is not a place for you to protest.”

Ko asked other journalists whether their views were being blocked, but they said no.

Bon Ko
Bon Ko. Photo: Screenshot.

At around 4:22pm, Ko said the press conference would be cancelled. Police then switched off the lights. Later, the force said it would brief the public about the details of the weekends’ operations via a Facebook live video at 5:30pm.

Journalist arrests

On Sunday, Joey Kwok – a freelance photojournalist working for Stand News – was arrested and handcuffed on suspicion of obstructing police as he was taking photos at the mall. He refused police bail conditions and was released at around 4pm on Monday.

Nelson Tang, a journalism student who is a member of the Hong Kong Baptist University Students’ Union Editorial Board, was released on bail after being arrested on suspicion of acting in a disorderly manner in public. He will have to report to the Chai Wan Police Station at a later date.

Ronson Chan
Ronson Chan (left). Photo: Screenshot.

Ronson Chan, an executive member of Hong Kong Journalists Association and Stand News reporter who joined the action, said the action was not a protest: “Our action was to support two colleagues,” he said. “We only coordinated our clothing to tell the police that… our colleagues on the frontlines have been attacked and arrested.”

Chan said he was disappointed that the police cancelled the press conference, adding that journalists did not wish to make the news themselves.

police press conference protest
Photo: RTHK screenshot.

“But we have become targets of the police. We believe it is regretful and unacceptable,” he said. “Police said they were not targeting journalists. But it was not the case as we see.”

Chan also said that a journalist received a call from a superior, demanding they not to join the action. Chan took the journalist’s place instead.

“I hope newsroom management figures can understand frontline journalists face threats including pepper spray and guns from the police everyday. This is not a joke, the concern is real,” he said.

The Hong Kong Press Photographers Association also urged photographers to use their camera flashes at full power when covering the press conference, in an apparent response to officers shining strobe lights at journalists covering protests. But the protest did not take place following the event’s suspension.

photojournalist Joey Kwok Stand News arrested
Joey Kwok, a freelance photojournalist working for Stand News, being arrested on Sunday. Photo: Stand News.

Meanwhile, the Hong Kong Journalists Association and eight other media groups issued a joint statement condemning police blocking reporters from covering the news: “We urge the chief executive to order the police to stop all acts hindering press freedom,” the statement said.

Hong Kong Free Press relies on direct reader support. Help safeguard independent journalism and press freedom as we invest more in freelancers, overtime, safety gear & insurance during this summer’s protests. 10 ways to support us.

fundraising fundraise banner

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.