Hong Kong police announced a controversial decision on Tuesday to redefine “media representatives” as government-registered and “internationally recognised” agencies, newspapers, magazines, radio and television stations. Press cards issued by local journalist groups would no longer be accepted as valid accreditation.
The force said the proposed change to the Police General Orders would help facilitate frontline policing and reporting. It would also help identify members of the press and bar “self-proclaimed” journalists from protest sites.
“The amendment was by no means tightening up the definition of the press,” police told HKFP in an email reply.
The new guidelines drew widespread criticism from journalists, as eight press unions and associations slammed the move as “seriously impeding press freedom” in the city.
They demanded police to scrap what they saw as a de facto accreditation system, and said the force made a significant change to the existing system without discussing or consulting the sector.
The Foreign Correspondents’ Club said on Wednesday the new scheme would deliver a “serious blow” to freelance journalists and student reporters, who had provided “compelling reporting” during last year’s large-scale unrest.
HKFP has examined key moments from the city’s year-long pro-democracy protests that were captured by freelancers and student media.
Many of the clips gained viral traction and were shared freely with local, as well as international media. Student and freelance reporters often faced great personal risk in capturing iconic protest moments but received little reward, lacked protection from a large news outlet and bore the brunt of police-protester actions.
September 6: riot police tackle teenage girl
The HKUST Radio News Reporting Team captured footage of riot police pinning a young girl to the ground after she tried to flee during a demonstration in Mong Kok on September 6.
Although the teenager was not arrested, the police reaction sparked outrage from children’s rights groups which demanded the force apologise. Police later defended the response, saying officers had used the “minimum necessary force” to subdue the girl.
August 31: police pepper spray pregnant woman
Online-only NineTeen Media filmed a pregnant woman who appeared to have been affected by police pepper spray at a demonstration in Mong Kok on August 31. Independent outlet Studio Incendo, which shares its images under a Creative Commons license, also shot widely-shared photographs of the incident.
July 1: protester stabs police officer
The Hong Kong Baptist University Students’ Union Editorial Board captured the moment when a protester stabbed a police officer in the arm on July 1, the 23rd anniversary of the city’s handover to China. Thousands of Hongkongers had defied a police ban to march between Causeway Bay and Wan Chai in protest of the Beijing-enacted national security law.
November 11, 2019: police fire three live rounds in Sai Wan Ho, striking protester
Cupid Producer documented a police officer firing three live rounds at two protesters at close range in Sai Wan Ho on November 11, 2019, during a general strike action across the city. One of the round hit a protester, who had a kidney and half of his liver removed as a result.
October 1, 2019: police shoot 18-year-old with live round at close range
Last year, on October 1, Campus TV of the University of Hong Kong recorded graphic footage of police shooting an 18-year-old protester with a live round in Tsuen Wan. The teenager – Tsang Chi-kin – who appeared at the time to have a rod in his hand, was shot in his left lung. He was left in a critical condition and underwent surgery to remove the bullet, which was three centimetres from his heart.
October 1, 2019: National Day turmoil in a 360° view
HKFP freelancer Thomas Broader shot a 360-degree video on October 1, 2019, presenting an all-immersive view of the citywide turmoil. Hong Kong saw clouds of tear gas, petrol bombs and vandalism that day as protesters “mourned” the Chinese National Day.
August 31, 2019: police storm Prince Edward Station
Reporter Leung Pak-kin from online media Rice Post shot a video inside Prince Edward MTR station on August 31 last year, which showed police beating people with batons and deploying pepper spray while making arrests. Journalists and medics were expelled from the station, according to local media, leading to unverified rumours of civilian deaths during the incident.
July 27, 2019: police beat protesters inside Yuen Long MTR station
An HKFP freelancer, who does not wish to be named, captured chaotic scenes inside the Yuen Long MTR station on July 27, 2019. In the video, Special Tactical Squad officers were seen beating crowds as protesters set off fire extinguishers. There appeared to be blood on the floor.