Hong Kong’s Department of Justice has dropped a charge of improperly accessing public records against a reporter for a Beijing-owned newspaper, two months after another journalist investigating alleged police misconduct was convicted and fined on an identical charge.

Ta Kung Pao reporter Wong Wai-keung, 47, had been charged in February with violating the Road Traffic Ordinance by making false statements to access public vehicle records last August.

Department of Justice
Department of Justice. Photo: GovHK.

His case was heard by Principal Magistrate Ivy Chui at West Kowloon Court on Thursday morning. Prosecutors applied for Wong to be bound over, citing the fact that he was a newspaper employee and that it was a single incident, according to Apple Daily.

The magistrate agreed to bind Wong over in the sum of HK$2,000 to be of good behaviour for 12 months. He will not pay the HK$2,000 unless he breaches the order but was separately ordered to pay HK$1,000 in court fees.

A binding-over order is an agreement between the court and the defendant to be of good behaviour for a certain period. It is neither a punishment nor a criminal conviction.

Identical charges

The decision comes two months after another reporter investigating police behaviour was found guilty on identical charges and fined HK$6,000.

Freelance documentary producer Bao Choy Yuk-ling, who was working for Hong Kong government broadcaster RTHK, was found guilty after accessing public records during an investigation into allegations of police collusion with triad groups during the Yuen Long mob attacks.

The attacks were a watershed incident during the 2019 pro-democracy protests and helped fuel distrust between activists and the force.

West Kowloon Magistrates' Courts
Hong Kong documentary producer Bao Choy at the West Kowloon Law Courts Building on April 22, 2021, as she is set to receive a verdict after she was accused of making false statements while obtaining public records. Photo: Candice Chau/HKFP.

The conviction was slammed by press and rights groups as a sign of diminishing press freedom in Hong Kong. Choy has launched an appeal against the ruling.

HKFP has reached out to the Department of Justice for comment.

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Rhoda Kwan is HKFP's Assistant Editor. She has previously written for TimeOut Hong Kong and worked at Meanjin, a literary journal. She holds a double bachelor’s degree in Law and Literature from the University of Hong Kong.