Olympics: Journalists labeled ‘troublemakers’

Many Hong Kong papers ran a story about the ill-advised remarks of Regina Ip, the former secretary of security for Hong Kong, and a candidate in September’s elections for a seat in the Hong Kong Legislative Council (Legco). Ip said the “neck-shoving” techniques used by Beijing police to roust Hong Kong reporters covering the July 29 scuffle for some last minute Olympics tickets (the South China Morning Post’s coverage, TVB’s story, and a version in Cantonese are available on YouTube, along with others) were “most effective in stopping troublemakers” without causing permanent injuries. She made the remarks when reporters asked if she thought police would resort to more heavy-handed tactics if they need to block reporters from covering a situation embarrassing to the mainland government.


Ip is a go-to quote for Hong Kong media when these sorts of incidents crop up. She had achieved some prominence in 2002 when, as security secretary, she supported the addition of Article 23 to the Hong Kong Basic Law, (Hong Kong’s constitution). The amendment would have said:


The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region shall enact laws on its own to prohibit any act of treason, secession, sedition, subversion against the Central People’s Government, or theft of state secrets, to prohibit foreign political organizations or bodies from conducting political activities in the Region, and to prohibit political organizations or bodies of the Region from establishing ties with foreign political organizations or bodies.


The language was chilling enough to have the amendment withdrawn the next year after massive street protests, the resignation of some cabinet members, and the open resistance of some Legco members. Vague “state secrets” laws are often used in China to jail journalists, though we might be seeing a move toward charges of “splittism” when it comes to covering Tibetan resistance or the Uighur minority in the predominantly Muslim Xinjiang Autonomous Region.


Ip said she was sorry she had categorized the Hong Kong reporters as troublemakers, and that it was a slip of the tongue, nothing more. Today the SCMP listed the story quoting Ip as its most popular article in the last seven days–topping the story about the worst air conditions of the year in Hong Kong. That’s bad news of course for Hong Kong residents, but even worse for the visiting horses and riders who will be taking part in the Olympic equine competitions, which are being held in Hong Kong.


(Reporting from Hong Kong)