Police patrol the street in Hong Kong on May 8, 2022. (AFP/Dale de la Rey)

Hong Kong journalist Eric Wu Ka-Fai sentenced to 1 month in prison for disorderly behavior

Taipei, May 23, 2022—Hong Kong authorities must immediately and unconditionally release Eric Wu Ka-Fai, a reporter for independent news site HK Golden, and stop jailing members of the press for reporting the news, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Monday. 

On Monday, May 23, Hong Kong’s West Kowloon Magistrates’ Court sentenced Wu to one month in prison for behaving in a disorderly manner in a public place under the city’s public order ordinance for questioning police during a HK Golden live broadcast as he was covering a pro-democracy student event in central Hong Kong in April 2021, according to news reports.

“Hong Kong authorities should be embarrassed for jailing journalist Eric Wu Ka-Fai merely for asking tough questions of the police, as he had every right to do,” said Steven Butler, CPJ’s Asia coordinator, in Washington in D.C. “Hong Kong authorities continue to claim that press freedom prevails in the Chinese-ruled city, but cases like Wu’s prove otherwise.”

According to reports, Wu, who also reports under the name Gwanfolo, was detained on September 29, 2021 and released on bail the next day on charges of behaving in a disorderly manner in a public place, willfully obstructing a police officer on duty, and refusing to obey an order of a police officer. The charges stemmed from his questioning of police during his HK Golden livestream on April 15, 2021, of a pro-democracy street booth erected by student group Student Politicism. On Monday, the judge acquitted Wu of the latter two charges, the reports said. 

In video of Wu’s April 15 livestream, police officers can be seen blocking Wu as he tries to film them questioning the student group. Wu raises his voice and asks the officers whether they intend to hit the crowd when an officer pulls out a stick, later revealed to be a selfie stick, from a bag. The officer says, “police don’t hit people,” and Wu confronts him, saying, “Police don’t hit people? Wasn’t Frankly Chu King Wai [who was jailed for hitting a bystander during Hong Kong protests in 2014] a police officer? Weren’t the seven officers [convicted of assaulting pro-democracy activist Ken Tsang in 2014] police?” Wu also cites cases of alleged police theft and sexual misconduct in the livestream. 

According to the reports, the judge said Wu’s recounting of alleged police misconduct in a public place constituted a disorderly conduct offense because it could have incited collective hatred toward police at the scene resulting in violence. 

In an email to CPJ sent after publication, the Hong Kong police public relations branch said that the police welcome the court judgement. The email, signed by a “Duty Officer,” also stated that “police reiterate that all enforcement actions are strictly based on evidence collected and in accordance with the laws of Hong Kong, regardless of the background of an individual.”

The Department of Justice declined to comment on Wu’s case. 

CPJ’s 2021 prison census found that China remained the world’s worst jailer of journalists for the third year in a row. It was the first time that journalists in Hong Kong appeared on CPJ’s census.

Editor’s note: The name of the police officer mentioned in the fifth paragraph has been corrected, and the responses of the Hong Kong police and Department of Justice have been updated in the seventh and eighth paragraphs.