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A police officer is seen at a vigil to mourn a student’s death in Hong Kong on March 8, 2020. Police have arrested and attacked journalists covering the vigils. (Reuters/Tyrone Siu)

Hong Kong police attack and detain journalists covering protester vigils

March 10, 2020 11:45 AM ET

On February 9, 2020, police officers arrested two journalists in Tseung Kwan O New Town, in eastern Hong Kong, while they were covering a vigil for Chow Tsz-lok, a university student who died in November 2019, according to news reports.

Chow died after falling from a building where police had clashed with demonstrators; police have opened an investigation into whether his death was related to the protests, according to news reports. Demonstrators had been protesting throughout Hong Kong since the summer against a proposed extradition bill, which was later withdrawn, and against alleged police abuses, according to those reports.

On February 9, police fired pepper spray at a reporter for City Broadcasting Channel, an independent station based at the City University of Hong Kong, and detained him for 24 hours, according to news reports and a statement by the broadcaster. Those reports, which do not identify the reporter by name, said he was wearing a yellow press vest and a visible press badge at the time of the arrest, and that authorities accused him of obstructing a police officer.

During his detention, police verbally harassed the reporter and threatened him with sodomy, according to the broadcaster’s statement. He was released the following day after authorities charged him with stealing a metro card, according to those reports.

Police also detained a reporter with Mad Dog Daily, a Chinese-language online newspaper, who was covering the vigil, according to news reports and a statement by the outlet. Those reports also do not identify the reporter by name.

Police hit the reporter with a baton and pushed him to the ground after he filmed officers arrest one of the vigil attendees and the reporter asked for the attendee’s name, according to the outlet’s statement, which stated that the reporter was wearing a visible press badge at the time.

The newspaper’s founder, Yuk Man Wong, told CPJ via messaging app that authorities released the reporter without charge the next day, but said that police had confiscated the reporter’s cellphone and had not returned it as of March 10.

On March 8, a police officer pushed Yau Chun Wa, a reporter for the news station i-Cable News, to the ground while she was covering another vigil for Chow Tsz-lok at the Tseung Kwan O Kong Ming Court, according to news reports.

The reporter felt dizzy and had tinnitus after hitting her head against the ground, and later had a headache and a swollen wound at the back of her head, according to i-Cable News.

In response to the incident, the Hong Kong police force’s public relations branch expressed condolences and said that journalists should keep an appropriate distance from police officers on duty, according to the broadcaster.

i-Cable News released a statement on its Facebook page on March 9 saying that the station did not accept the police explanation and called for a swift investigation into the incident.

The Hong Kong police public relations branch told CPJ in an email that the police expressed condolences to Yau Chun Wa and said that officers respect the right of the press to cover events “as long as they don’t hinder police enforcement.”

The branch did not respond to CPJ’s request for comment on the February 9 incidents.

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