Hong Kong police have apologised after an officer pushed a reporter to the ground during a dispersal operation in Tseung Kwan O.
The incident occurred as hundreds gathered around the car park at Sheung Tak Estate on Sunday evening to commemorate a student who died near a clearance operation last November. At around midnight, an i-Cable reporter wearing a reflective press vest and helmet was pushed from behind by a riot police officer using a shield. The broadcaster said she injured her head, resulting in ringing in her ears and dizziness.
In a Facebook post published at 6:24pm on Monday, i-Cable said representatives had enquired about the identity of the officer to the Police Public Relations Branch (PPRB) but the Branch declined to reveal it.
Instead, PPRB replied saying the scene was chaotic and urged reporters to listen to officers’ instructions while keeping a distance in order to avoid injuries, i-Cable reported. It also sent its condolences to the reporter, adding that all complaints would be handled properly.
i-Cable said it did not consider the police explanation to be adequate because footage showed that the reporter and police were walking in the same direction when the officer suddenly moved sideways, pushing her to the ground.
“[We] deeply regret the police response, which circumvents concrete facts. [We] demand the police investigate the matter, disclose the identity of the officer and publicise the investigation findings,” the broadcaster added.
PPRB apologised to i-Cable in another letter, saying that the officer was careless and did not deliberately bump into the journalist, i-Cable reported in a separate Facebook post.
【防暴推跌本台記者 警方晚上致慰問信稱抱歉、非蓄意】本台記者昨晚在將軍澳採訪期間，被一名防暴警察從後推跌，頭部受傷。警察公共關係科晚上致函有線新聞，對事件感到抱歉，指經初步了解，涉事警員驅散期間不慎撞倒本台記者，並非蓄意。#有線新聞 #警方抱歉 #推跌記者 #非蓄意 #慰問信
Posted by 有線新聞 i-Cable News on Monday, 9 March 2020
Multiple reporters including a NowTV cameraman were hit by pepper spray on Sunday afternoon in a separate protest in Tai Po, which the police declared to be unlawful.
Hong Kong Journalists Association Chairperson Chris Yeung wrote an open letter to the Chief Executive Carrie Lam on Monday, citing the reporters’ injuries. He said that, if she believed press freedom was a cornerstone of Hong Kong’s prosperity, she would stop condoning the “unreasonable” obstruction of journalists by the police.
NowTV cameraman receives treatment after being pepper-sprayed at Tai Po protest. Photo: Kaiser/United Social Press.
“Police have downplayed the verbal and physical abuse of reporters as an unintentional side effect of enforcing the law. Their explanations have been inadequate,” the letter read.
An i-Cable reporter asked Lam ahead of her weekly Executive Council meeting on Monday whether she would tolerate police misbehaviour.
Lam replied saying that it was impossible for police to thoroughly anticipate their actions in a split second: “When situations are chaotic and police officers are tasked with enforcing the law… in the fit of the moment, something like that might occur.”