A Hong Kong court has found a local female reporter guilty of resisting a police officer in the execution of their duties while covering a protest in Mong Kok last May. The journalist was originally handed a suspended jail term, but the decision was withdrawn hours later after a magistrate realised a suspended sentence was not applicable to the offence.
Reporter Ho Ka-yan of news outlet Ben Yu Entertainment Ltd was convicted by Kowloon City magistrate Ada Yim on Wednesday. According the local media, the court ruled that the 27-year-old resisted a female police officer surnamed Lau last May 11, after she refused an order to stop filming two arrests at a public toilet in Mong Kok during a mass protest.
Following her arrest, Ho had complained that some officers subdued her by putting their knees on her neck and pepper-spraying her at a close range, causing her to lose consciousness briefly.
In handing down the verdict on Wednesday, Yim said Ho – who pleaded not guilty – had “obviously obstructed” Lau from discharging her duties. The magistrate said the reporter clearly understood why she was stopped by police, but did not comply with the request and pushed Lau’s hand away twice.
Ho was said to have made a scene outside the public toilet by shouting, and attempted to flee the scene. But the magistrate noted that it was inappropriate for the officers to use pepper spray against Ho, saying the reporter had not resisted strongly.
Yim said the use of pepper spray might have triggered Ho to defend herself and harm herself while she was emotionally unstable. The court ruled that Ho did not resist three other male officers who helped restrain her.
The magistrate originally meted out a four-week jail term to Ho and suspended the sentence for two years. But Yim retracted the decision around two hours later, saying she had erred in thinking that a sentence for the resisting police charge could be suspended.
The magistrate apologised to both the prosecution and the defence and said she must “review” herself.
Ho was released on bail pending a new sentence on July 17.
Democratic Party district councillor Angus Yik, who has been assisting Ho, told the press after the hearing that he was disappointed with the judgement. He said Ho was only conducting reporting work and did not intentionally obstruct police.
He said the incident created “serious psychological trauma” for Ho, saying the journalist hoped the court would consider sentencing her to community service instead.
Ben Yu Entertainment has over 11,000 followers on Facebook. Its website was unreachable on Wednesday and its last post on Facebook was dated February 10.