Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam said Friday that the arrest of RTHK producer Choy Yuk-ling did not indicate “selective prosecution” by the authorities and journalists in the city still enjoy press freedom.
Choy had been investigating alleged police misconduct during a mob attack on protesters and others at Yuen Long MTR station last year, one of the watershed moments during months-long pro-democracy protests that shook the city.
“Hong Kong is a place that operates in accordance with the law, the rule of law is our cornerstone, so everyone is equal before the law,” Lam told a press conference in Beijing. “There is no selective law enforcement or selective prosecution.”
Lam refused direct comment on the charges against the journalist, saying it was “inappropriate” for her to say anything about ongoing legal proceedings.
“Press freedom is still guaranteed under the Basic Law,” she added. “We will not suppress press freedoms. However, news professionals should also abide by the law.”
Lam is in Beijing for a five-day official visit during which she met senior officials, including Vice-Premier Han Zheng and others from six commissions, including those for health and development. She said her purpose was to consult central authorities and gain their support for strategies to boost Hong Kong’s economy but did not elaborate.
Choy, a freelance journalist, was arrested on Tuesday for allegedly making a false declaration to access vehicle ownership records. She was trying to trace those present at the scene of the Yuen Long attacks for a documentary programme for RTHK, the city’s public broadcaster.
On July 21, 2019, a group of over 100 rod-wielding men stormed Yuen Long MTR station and left 45 people injured. Police were criticised for responding slowly to the incident, with some officers seen leaving the scene or interacting with the white-clad assailants.
The official account of the incident evolved over a year, with the authorities eventually claiming the incident was a “gang fight.”
‘Harassment’ and ‘intimidation’
Choy’s arrest has been slammed by rights groups who have voiced concerns over the city’s eroding press freedoms.
“The harassment of public media group RTHK is symbolic of the recent acceleration of press freedom’s decline after the passing, four months ago, of a national security law imposed by Beijing,” Cédric Alviani from Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said in a statement Friday.
“The Hong Kong government would do better in making efforts to uphold press freedom, a value enshrined in Article 27 of the Basic Law, rather than trying to intimidate a media known for the quality and independence of its reporting,” the statement said.
RSF also referred to Hong Kong’s dramatic drop on its World Press Freedom Index. The city ranked 80th out of 180 countries this year, a significant fall from its ranking of 18 in 2002.