Hong Kong producer Bao Choy faced trial on Wednesday for allegedly violating the Road Traffic Ordinance in seeking to obtain vehicle licence plate information for a documentary which questioned the police response to the 2019 Yuen Long mob attacks. The prosecution argued that she made false statements, as news investigations are not approved reasons for obtaining licence plate data.

The 37-year-old freelance producer for RTHK‘s Hong Kong Connection appeared at the West Kowloon Magistrates’ Court as members of the RTHK Programme Staff Union rallied outside to support her.

Bao Choy and members of the RTHK Programme Staff Union outside the West Kowloon Magistrates’ Court on Wednesday. Photo: Nasha Chan/StandNews.

They held up signs that read: “Fearless, unrelenting, selfless. Safeguard the truth, freedom,” “Journalism is not a crime,” and “Without fear or favour.” Choy went into the court without giving any comment.

According to StandNews, Choy pleaded not guilty to two charges as Principal Magistrate Ivy Chui ruled that there was prima facie evidence and a case to hear. No witnesses were summoned as the prosecution presented two written statements. Choy declined to make a statement.

Yuen Long attacks

Choy stands accused of making two false claims when searching online for vehicle licence plate information related to potential suspects connected to the 2019 attacks.

On July 21, 2019, over 100 rod-wielding men stormed Yuen Long MTR station leaving 45 people injured – including journalists, protesters, commuters and pro-democracy lawmaker Lam Cheuk-ting. Police were criticised for responding slowly to the incident, with some officers seen leaving the scene or interacting with the white-clad men. The official account of the incident evolved over a year, with the authorities eventually claiming it was a “gang fight.”

The prosecution argued on Wednesday that – according to the Road Traffic Ordinance – vehicle licence plate information can only be obtained for legal purposes, trading vehicles, and other “traffic and transport related matters.” They said that a news investigation on the mob attack did not amount to traffic or transport related matters, StandNews reported.

Hong Kong Connection 721 Who Owns the Truth. Photo: RTHK, via video screenshot.

Choy’s representative countered that it was clear that Choy was intending to identify the vehicles used to transport suspected attackers, and hence – even when the producer used the information she obtained for news purposes – it was related to the use of vehicle and transport matters.

According to local media, the full episode of Hong Kong Connection: 7.21 Who Owns the Truth, was played in court.

The episode revealed that how suspected plainclothes police were present in Yuen Long before the storming of the Yuen Long MTR station. They were criticised for their slow response to the attack, as officers arrived almost 40 minutes late. The authorities later changed their calculations a year later, and claimed that the first police response came 18 minutes after citizens’ reports of the incident.

The judgement of the case will be handed down on April 22. If convicted, Choy could face up to six months in jail.

Correction 21.04.2021: A previous version of the article wrongly stated that Choy could face up to two years in jail if she is convicted. Under the Road Traffic Ordinance, she could face up to six months in jail and a HK$5,000 fine.

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Candice Chau

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.