Taipei, October 2, 2019 -- Hong Kong authorities should drop all charges against journalist Pang Pui Yin and cease harassing journalists covering protests, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
Yesterday, Hong Kong police arrested Pang, a reporter for the Chinese-language news website Local Press, while dispersing protesters in Mong Kok, according to news reports and a statement posted to Facebook by Local Press. He was held at the Yau Ma Tei Police Station in Kowloon until this evening, when he was released on bail, according to Local Press CEO Joel Lau, who spoke to CPJ via messaging app.
Police first accused Pang of unlawful assembly, but released him from detention after alleging that he assaulted a police officer, Lau said. CPJ could not determine the amount of Pang’s bail or whether charges have been formally filed against him.
According to a statement by the Hong Kong Journalists Association, police committed “out of control” attacks against journalists while dispersing protesters yesterday, firing projectiles at demonstrators and journalists, injuring several journalists. The statement also detailed several other incidents of police harassment of journalists.
“The arrest of Local Press reporter Pang Pui Yin is just the latest example of inexcusable Hong Kong police action against a journalist merely doing his job of reporting the news,” said Steven Butler, CPJ’s Asia program coordinator, in Washington, D.C. “Police should drop any charges against Pang, and must cease harassing and injuring reporters covering protests.”
Pang had livestreamed the protests in Mong Kok every evening for the past several weeks, said a Local News representative who spoke to CPJ through the outlet’s official channel on a messaging app and declined to provide their name.
Pang captured his arrest in a livestream that Local Press posted on its Facebook page. In the video, police can be seen yelling at a group of journalists to leave the road and return to the sidewalk, and the video ends as a police officer grabs Pang. At the time of his arrest, Pang was wearing a vest and a helmet that identified him as a journalist, and had a press pass on his neck, the Local Press representative told CPJ.
The representative who spoke to CPJ said that Local Press has hired a lawyer to handle Pang’s case, and called his detention and the allegations against him “unreasonable.”
The representative told CPJ that Pang filmed the September 29 police attack on Indonesian journalist Veby Mega Indah, an associate editor at Suara Hong Kong News, who was shot in the face with a projectile, as CPJ reported at the time. She will be permanently blinded in her right eye as a result, according to news reports that cite her lawyer.
The Hong Kong Police Force did not respond to CPJ's email requesting comment.
Yesterday’s protests were some of the most violent to date, according to a report by the BBC. Police shot an 18-year-old protester in the chest with a live round, and protesters armed with poles, petrol bombs, and projectiles fought against police, according to that report.
This escalation in violence presents a challenge to journalists reporting on the protests. For more information about journalist safety while reporting on demonstrations, please refer to CPJ’s safety advice, including tips on how to safely cover civil disorder.