A Hong Kong court has rejected a legal challenge put forward by the Hong Kong Journalists’ Association (HKJA)  against the police over the “ill treatment” of journalists during last year’s anti-extradition bill protests.

On Monday, the Court of First Instance ruled that the police force’s duty to ensure journalists’ safety and not hinder their work was not “absolute,” and it was limited by factors such as the circumstances on the ground.

Press freedom journalist police
Photo: Studio Incendo.

The HKJA filed the judicial review – a procedure whereby a judge of the Court of First Instance examines the decision-making processes of administrative bodies and officials – in October last year.

The association challenged against the Hong Kong police over their pattern of “deliberately aggressive and obstructive police tactics as well as unnecessary and excessive force.”

The HKJA submitted 13 accounts from affected journalists to the court for consideration, urging it declare that the police actions violated the Basic Law and the Hong Kong Bill of Rights.

Judge Anderson Chow ruled that “the proper course” for journalists who felt that they were improperly treated would be legal action against the Commissioner of the force, or the government.

Chow added that the judgement did not mean that the court had ruled on whether the police acted wrongfully or not, and it could only be determined after a full investigation.

Judge Anderson Chow Ka-ming
Anderson Chow Ka-ming. File photo: GovHK.

The HKJA said on Facebook that they were “extremely disappointed” that the court rejected their application, adding that under the “fundamentally flawed” complaint system of the police, it would be extremely difficult to challenge police misconduct using the current complaint mechanism or the time-consuming legal process.

The association said that they would decide the next course of action after studying the judgement with their legal team.

Hong Kong saw months of protests last year, triggered by an extradition bill which would have allowed fugitive transfers to China. Protests sometimes became violent clashes between protesters and the police.

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Candice is a reporter at Hong Kong Free Press. She previously worked as a researcher at a local think tank. She has a BSocSc in Politics and International Relations from the University of Manchester and a MSc in International Political Economy from London School of Economics.