A student journalist for the Hong Kong Baptist University (HKBU) Students’ Union Editorial Board has been charged with obstructing police and resisting arrest, after he was apprehended during a protest at a luxury mall in Hong Kong in May.

The editorial board said on Wednesday that its former reporter Nelson Tang was officially charged by police on Tuesday night. The charges were linked to Tang’s arrest in Central’s IFC Mall on May 8, where dozens of people gathered to take part in a pro-democracy sing-along during lunchtime.

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HKBU Editorial’s Nelson Tang was stopped and searched by the police at IFC mall. Photo: Students Media.

Protesters chanted slogans including “Hong Kong independence, the only way out” and sang Glory to Hong Kong – the unofficial anthem of last year’s anti-extradition bill movement. Police warned demonstrators to disperse, citing a violation of the coronavirus public gathering restrictions. Officers later used pepper spray to break up the crowds.

The editorial board said Tang had worn a press pass when he was reporting in the mall, but said he was surrounded by officers and was once subdued on the floor. An HKFP reporter at the scene heard Tang shouting that he had been beaten, while photos from online media outlet PSHK showed there was blood on Tang’s nose.

The student body condemned the police for pressing charges against Tang and accused the force of “arbitrarily interfering with the fourth estate.”

“[Police] are trying to settle a score with student journalists, and increase the legal risks for student journalists to report at the frontline,” the HKBU Students’ Union Editorial Board wrote on Facebook.

Tang will appear in the Eastern Magistrates’ Court at 9 am on Friday.

In September, police changed their internal guidelines to redefine media representatives as those only from government-registered outlets or “internationally known” foreign media. The force said the amendment would help avert “self-proclaimed journalists,” while critics described the move as a further erosion of the city’s dwindling press freedom.

The Foreign Correspondents’ Club warned that journalists not recognised under the new policy may risk being arrested at protests and demonstrations.

Press freedom journalist police
Journalists and riot police in a mall protest. Photo: Studio Incendo.

“But this is about more than access to events and invitations to the inside of the police cordon. Journalists who are not recognised under this new policy could face the real possibility of arrest for unlawful assembly or rioting,” the press club said in a statement on September 23.

Chris Hung, the editor in chief of the City University of Hong Kong Students’ Union Editorial Board told HKFP last month that they have not applied for a subscription to the government’s information system despite police using the online portal to define members of the press.

“We are working as usual to interview and report news from demonstration scenes. It is our responsibility to defend the right to know of the public and the fourth power,” the 20-year-old said.

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Kelly Ho

Kelly Ho has an interest in local politics, education and sports. She formerly worked at South China Morning Post Young Post, where she specialised in reporting on issues related to Hong Kong youth. She has a bachelor's degree in Journalism from the University of Hong Kong, with a second major in Politics and Public Administration.