Police are seen in Hong Kong on October 1, 2020. Authorities recently filed criminal charges in the cases of two journalists who had covered protests in the city in May 2020. (Reuters/Tyrone Siu)

Hong Kong police charge 2 reporters with obstruction over coverage of May protests

In November 2020, Hong Kong police criminally charged two journalists over their coverage of protests the previous May, according to news reports.

On November 3, police charged student journalist Nelson Tang with “obstructing police” and “resisting arrest,” according to news reports and a statement from the Hong Kong Baptist University Students’ Union Editorial Board, a student-run news organization where Tang contributes reporting.

Police initially arrested Tang on May 8, 2020, while he was covering a pro-democracy sing-along protest at a shopping mall for the student publication, which covers local news on its website, social media platforms, and in annual magazines, according to that statement and the outlet’s website.

The Eastern Magistrates’ Court granted Tang bail on November 6, on the condition that he report to police every week until his next trial hearing, scheduled for January 8, 2021, according to the outlet’s statement.

In an email to CPJ, the Hong Kong Baptist University Students’ Union Editorial Board declined to comment on Tang’s case, citing ongoing legal proceedings.
If convicted, Tang could face up to two years in prison, according to the Hong Kong Offences Against the Person Ordinance.

In a separate incident, on November 5, Hong Kong police arrested a reporter surnamed Ho, who works for the local news website Ben Yu Entertainment, and charged her with obstruction, according to a statement posted by the outlet on its Facebook page and news reports. The statement and reports identified Ho as a 26-year-old female reporter, but did not disclose her full name.

Police initially arrested Ho on May 10, 2020, after she photographed male police officers entering female restrooms to make arrests during a pro-democracy protest, according to the statement and those reports. During the arrest, police confiscated Ho’s filming equipment, pepper-sprayed her, and put a knee on her neck, causing her to lose consciousness, according to those sources.

Ho was hospitalized for more than 48 hours following the arrest, and was not charged at the time, according to the statement and reports.

On November 9, the Kowloon City Magistrates’ Courts granted Ho bail, according to those reports. A Ben Yu Entertainment representative told CPJ via messaging app that the next hearing in her case is scheduled on December 29.

In an email to CPJ, the Hong Kong police public relations branch said that officers had arrested a 21-year-old man who matched Tang’s description on May 8, and alleged that he had refused to be searched and questioned by police. The email, signed by the “Duty Officer Police Public Relations Branch,” also stated that a woman matching Ho’s description had been arrested on May 10 on suspicion of taking pictures in a public bathroom.

“The officers had warned the woman to stop and she refused to cooperate,” the email wrote. “After further investigation and having sought legal advice, officers arrested the woman on the charge of obstructing police on November 5.”