On May 10 (Sunday) at 11:00 pm, a large number of polices pushed forward in Shan Tung Street, Mongkok, shooting pepper spray to pedestrians and reporters, dozens of them were surrounded by the police and were rudely ordered to “squat down” on the street.
Some polices lost control and yelled at reporters. It took about 5 minutes before the police allowed volunteer first aiders to enter the cordoned-off area to assist the injured, and the media was released. Many were sprayed and cried in agitation, some police rebuked them, saying, “Cry louder! It’s not miserable enough!”
In the operation, the police intercepted about 50 people, including reporters and ordinary pedestrians. The police demand reporters at the scene to kneel on the ground for over an hour before they were released. Most of the reporters at the time had already raised their hands, without any resistance and did not breach the police line, but they were suddenly attacked by the police with pepper spray, that the ground was covered with “pepper water”. When the reporters tried to leave in the other direction, police on the other side prohibited them from leaving, and the riot police in the front continued to spray.
The police pinned a TMHK reporter’s head to the ground for a period of time. He was sprayed in several places and felt redness, swelling, and pain on his head, neck, and back. A police officer then told the reporters and pedestrians, through loudspeakers, that they were participating in an illegal assembly and asked them to leave as soon as possible, but many of the reporters who were pepper-sprayed were waiting for medical treatment.
Legislative Councillor Ted HUI Chi-fung was there to negotiate with the police and asked them for a time allowance, but the police ignored him and the scene was stalled for a while. Videos also showed a reporter kneeling, begging the police to let the rescue to clean the eyes that have been pepper-sprayed.
More than 10 hours after the incident, the Police Public Relations Branch (PPRB) responded that it “fully understands the importance of cooperating with the media and maintaining effective communication with them” and will continue to maintain good relations and provide necessary assistance to enhance cooperation. The statement goes on to say that any person who feels they have been treated unreasonably may lodge a complaint with the CAPO (Complaints Against Police Office).
Hong Kong Journalists Association, Hong Kong Press Photographers Association (HKPPA), The Independent Commentators Association, Journalism Educators for Press Freedom, RTHK Programme Staff Union, Ming Pao Staff Association and Next Media Trade Union have jointly issued a statement today, saying that the Police not only repeatedly stopped and searched the reporters last night, but also forced them to read out their names, Hong Kong ID numbers and the names of their organizations, etc, before the police video recorders. The polices also shorted and ordered the reporters to crouch down and forbade them from filming, shooting pepper spray into their eyes and ears at close range.
Multiple media unions have criticized in their statements that the Police Force has further disrupted and assaulted journalists in a frenzy of humiliation and outrage, that all journalists are filled with indignation. They also criticized the government and the police for claiming to respect the media as a fourth right, but in fact trying to suppress it by all means, describing “the freedom of the press in Hong Kong as being at stake”. They request the Commissioner of Police, Mr. Tang Ping-keung, to meet with representatives of media unions as a matter of urgency to immediately curb the Police Force’s unhealthy practice of targeting journalists and suspend police officers who have lost control of their duties for investigation, so as to avoid making mistakes again.
Ming Pao Staff Association: The police sprayed peppers into the reporter’s ears at close range, insulting him as a “dirty journalist”
On 10 May, at around 11:00 p.m., when two photojournalists of Ming Pao were covering news along Shandong Street, three groups of polices pushed along Shandong Street, Sai Yeung Choi Street South and Tung Choi Street, proceeding towards the junction of Shandong Street and Tung Choi Street. But the area was too crowded, and they were surrounded by the police, which made reporters hard to move. A reporter from Ming Pao Daily News witnessed a fall, resulting in “people stepping on people”.
A number of reporters of Ming Pao News were attacked, provoked and insulted by the Police during their coverage in Mongkok at night. That included spraying pepper spray into reporters’ ears at close range, and ordering them to crouch down and stop taking photos, etc. In addition, a Ming Pao cameraman was sprayed over most of his face; and before the media liaison team arrived at the scene, another cameraman’s mask was pulled off deliberately by the police, causing pepper spray to flow into his eyes. The polices also used abusive language to insult the reporters, calling them “dirty journalist”, mocking them of “having gear and no need to scare”, and shooting pepper spray at 3-4 cm beside ears.
The polices also asked everyone to squat down, and a police officer shouted, “I don’t care whether you are a journalist or not. My word”. Later, a cameraman was taken to a back alley and searched. A police officer next to him was provocative and the reporter remained silent. Then the police turned harsh and insulted the reporter, “Are you deaf?”. Moreover, earlier on the same day, a photographer was injured in the arm by a Special Tactic Squad (STS) with a shield to the extent of flaking his skin while he was taking photographs.
The editorial board of Ming Pao News said in a statement that two Ming Pao reporters who had hung up their press cards were also surrounded and sprayed. One of the reporters continued to carry out photographic duties, but was ordered to stop covering, and was taken to a back alley for searching and questioning. The surrounded reporters were released later on, but they were requested to spoke out their names, Hong Kong ID numbers and display their press cards one by one in front of the police’s camera.
Ming Pao Daily said the reporters, who were legally covering the news at the scene, did not obstruct the police officers’ work. But they were surrounded and asked to crouch down, and even though the reporters cooperated with police instructions, they were sprayed with a large amount of pepper spray and ordered to stop taking photos. The editorial board strongly condemned the police’s brutal treatment of journalists, expressed deep anger and regret, stressed that journalists’ right to report is protected by law, and solemnly demands an explanation from the Hong Kong police.
The Basic Law, Article 27:
Hong Kong residents shall have freedom of speech, of the press and of publication; freedom of association, of assembly, of procession and of demonstration; and the right and freedom to form and join trade unions, and to strike
The Law of Hong Kong, Cap. 232A, Police (Discipline) Regulations part I section 3
(2) The offences against discipline are—
(k) unlawful or unnecessary exercise of authority resulting in loss or injury to any other person or to the Government;
The Basic Law, Cap. 212 Offences against the Person Ordinance, Section 39
Assault occasioning actual bodily harm –
Any person who is convicted of an assault occasioning actual bodily harm shall be guilty of an offence triable upon indictment, and shall be liable to imprisonment for 3 years.
Police General Orders, Chapter 27, 27-02
2. A police officer shall not delay the administering of medical aid or the conveyance of a
victim by ambulance to a hospital or clinic.
4. An ambulance crew shall not be told by Police to wait at the scene, e.g. to await the arrival
of a Forensic Pathologist.
Police General Orders, Chapter 39, 39-05
All officers at the scene of an incident shall:-
(a) facilitate the work of the news media as much as possible and accord
media representatives consideration and courtesy; and
(b) not block camera lenses.
Force Procedures Manual (FPM), Chapter 39
39-04 Press Freedom and Press Area
It should be noted that the news media have the right to film, record or take photographs in or
within view of a public place, even during Police controlled operations. Photographers and TV cameramen in particular should be given an opportunity to have vantage points; they as far as possible are to be given unrestricted access to any public place in the same way as any other members of the public. The Police are not responsible for what the news media publishes or broadcasts – this is a judgement for the media to make.
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