HK Police Raptor Squad Pushed a U.S. Journalist and Violently Removed Her Mask
During the press conference on October 5, the HK Security Chief John Lee had stated that journalists were exempt from the anti-mask law. However, on the following day riot police demanded that reporters take off their face protection mask when tear gas was fired. They even forcefully removed two Apple Daily reporters’ face masks. The promise made by the security chief was broken.
On October 6, protesters voices out their anger against Carrie Lam’s enactment of the anti-mask law through the emergency regulations, by marching in both Kowloon and Hong Kong island. During the arrest of over 10 protesters, riot police were beating protesters with their batons and spraying them with pepper spray. Reporters tried to film this, however they were pushed by the riot police. The reporters were also asked to take off their face masks when tear gas was fired and the riot police, on the other hand, had their masks on.
According to an Apple Daily reporter, the police demanded that “all three of us take off our masks, and then forcefully removed mine twice. We were wearing our press pass on the front. However, the riot police kept demanding that we back up, and even called us “dirty reporters, fake reporters. Real reporters are backing up, fake reporters come forward and film us. How many fake reporters do we have here?”
Riot police suddenly started pushing Suzanne Sataline, a U.S. journalist who was wearing a green helmet and a reflective press vest. They tried to surround and arrest her, but later released her without any explanation. According to Suzanne, she fell to the ground when the riot police pushed forward. Another female protester also fell down right in front of her. As she tried to capture the footage, the police kept yelling, “where are you from?” Even though Suzanne responded, the police kept asking. At times, the police told her to leave. However, on the other hand, they told her to sit down. This made her feel both helpless and worried that her translator would be arrested. She was also beaten in the arm with a baton.
According to Mr. Lau, Suzanne’s translator, Suzanne, as a 56 years old woman, had been covering news in Hong Kong for many years. He witnessed that Suzanne was pushed to the ground, surrounded and hit on her helmet by the police. However, he wasn’t sure what happened afterwards, as he was pushed to over 10 m away from Suzanne. “The police didn’t know much English, so it was worrying to see Suzanne there.” Suzanne later tried to speak with a representative from the Police Public Relations Branch and complain. However, the representative only said that they would follow up later. Suzanne, feeling fed up, yelled “I’m done”, and turned away and left.
According to Vickie Lui, a member of the Progressive Lawyers Group, in a trial, it is easonable to argue that reporters need to wear face masks when covering protests, given that they would be exposed to tear gas. However, because there have been no previous legal cases related to this, one cannot conclude with full certainty that the argument applies to all cases.