Taipei, August 5, 2019—Hong Kong authorities should investigate reports that police fired tear gas canisters and rubber bullets toward journalists and ensure that the media can cover protests without fear of injury or arrest, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
Lai Ka Wai, a freelance video journalist for Visible Record, a non-profit documentary organization, suffered a head injury and was knocked unconscious today when police fired rubber bullets and tear gas canisters at a crowd in the Sham Shui Po district during a protest against the proposed extradition bill according to InMedia and Hong Kong Free Press. Zhou Junfeng, a reporter from the newspaper Ta Kung Pao, was briefly detained after he pushed back against the police to try to give more space to the injured journalist, according to news reports.
If police in Mong Kok might refrain from having 3 officers deliberately crush me against a wall with shields whilst I’m alone & moving away from them in a bright yellow bilingual “PRESS” vest whilst shouting “PRESS,” that’d be just great. ? pic.twitter.com/aWs2oBvlh2
— Tom Grundy (@tomgrundy) August 5, 2019
In a separate incident at the protest, a video posted to Twitter today by Tom Grundy, editor-in-chief of Hong Kong Free Press, showed riot police using their shields to push him against a wall as he was walking away from police.
“Hong Kong police must take measures to ensure that journalists like Lai Ka Wai can do their work safely,” said CPJ Asia Program Coordinator Steven Butler, in Washington, D.C. “”To be clear: police need to take care not to hit journalists with rubber bullets or tear gas canisters, or use unnecessary force while taking crowd-control measures.”
Lai was left unconscious and bleeding from his head, according to a statement that Visible Record published on Facebook. After emergency treatment, he regained consciousness and is in a stable condition, the statement said. Lai could not move his upper body at one point, after he was hit, the independent news website InMedia reported.
Lai is also a journalism student at the Chu Hai College of Higher Education, Hong Kong Journalists Association told CPJ. The student union and Visible Record both condemned the use of force by police.
CPJ has previously expressed concern about the use of force against journalists in Hong Kong, after police used batons and tear gas during protests on June 12.