Ronson Chan, the chairperson of the city’s largest journalist group the Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA), has been officially charged with obstructing police officers while reporting.
Speaking to reporters outside Mong Kok Police Station on Monday, the former Stand News reporter said that he had received a call from the force earlier in the day notifying him that he would be officially charged.
Chan was initially arrested for obstructing police officers and disorder in a public place on September 7 while reporting on a home owners’ committee meeting for online outlet Channel C.
The police said he was among two “suspicious” men seen by officers and that Chan had refused to comply with officers’ requests to present his identification despite multiple warnings.
Holding a bottle of coke in one hand and wearing a black polo shirt and a patterned head band, Chan was released on police bail after staying at the police station for less than an hour. He will appear at the West Kowloon Magistrates’ Courts on Thursday afternoon.
Chan could face a maximum jail time of two years if convicted.
‘Disturbances and difficulties’
Chan said the charge would bring certain “disturbances and difficulties” for his planned departure to the UK on Wednesday to pursue a six-month fellowship programme at the Reuters Institute at Oxford University.
“Fortunately, the Oxford side says they will support me and they will see what will happen,” Chan said, adding that he will respect whatever decision the magistrate makes.
“If… I lose this chance, I will not [have] regret,” Chan added.
HKFP has reached out to the Reuters Institute for comment.
When HKFP asked what he thought the incident said about the status of press freedom in Hong Kong, Chan said “even in Beijing’s streets, you will never experience any charges for asking a policeman which unit he comes from or him to show his warrant card etc.”
“You can imagine how the environment Hong Kong reporters and journalists facing is – it’s not a very easy environment,” Chan added.
Chan’s former employer Stand News was forced to cease operations last December after its newsroom was raided by police officers from the National Security Department and seven people linked to the outlet were arrested. The non-profit online news source was founded in December 2014 and had a pro-democracy slant.
Like his predecessor Carrie Lam, Chief Executive John Lee has said that freedom of the press in Hong Kong was not at risk.
Lee was the city’s security chief when Beijing imposed the sweeping national security legislation on Hong Kong two years ago. Since the onset of the law, newsrooms have been raided and several outlets have shut down, some after their top editors were arrested over national security or sedition charges.
In the run up to the leadership race in which he ran uncontested, Lee had said press freedom existed in the city and there was no need to ask him to “defend” it.
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