Hong Kong media attacked, pepper sprayed by police

Hong Kong police face new allegations of mistreatment this time by members of the media.

Now TV reported late Monday riot officers decided to pepper spray multiple reporters and photographers who gathered to cover a smaller demonstration outside the Mong Kok police station. No warning dispersal warning was issued and one reporter ended up in the hospital with a hand injury.

Screen cap from Now TV of a Hong Kong police officer pepper-spraying journalists.

Other journalists and news photographers were shoved by officers during the tense confrontation.

Screen cap from Now TV of journalists being shoved by police.

What happened was quickly condemned by the Hong Kong Journalist Association.

“Since the outbreak of a series of demonstrations in June, police officers have been out of control…police not only obstructed reporter interviews, but kept on flashing strong light to obstruct filming, unjustifiably drove journalists, verbally abused journalists, besieged journalists, and even carried out violence against journalists,” The group wrote in a translated statement on Facebook. “This Council has issued a number of statements requiring police to avoid malicious tactics against journalists, but so far, there has been no improvement, and the situation is even more serious. This Council will once again make a serious statement to the chief executive, Mrs Lam Cheng-Ngor, and the commissioner of police, Lu Wei-Cong, urging the government and the police department to face up on the abuse of power and force by police officers, and never turn a blind eye and let the situation continue to deteriorate.”

There does not appear to be an end in sight to the decaying conditions in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong police gave a rather weak defense towards their conduct: officers didn’t recognize the fact that those who carried cameras, held microphones, and wore reflector vests and helmet labeled “press” were actual journalists. Via Hong Kong Free Press:

At their daily press briefing on Tuesday, Chief Superintendent John Tse from the Police Public Relations Branch said that pepper spray was used because officers were surrounded and attacked. There were many people wearing reflective vests at the time, and it was hard to tell who was a real reporter, he said, adding that police had seized falsified press credentials in the past.

As for the Now TV cameraman being pushed, Tse said the victim had already made a complaint so he could not comment on the case.

It should be pointed out that at no time in the video are officers attacked or even threatened. Video of what happened showed more of a loose throng of reporters with some civilians watching from the edge, instead of one filled with chaos. The pushing, pepper-spraying, and beating of journalists cannot be justified especially in an area where the press is partly-free. This incident involving police and reporters will do nothing to encourage press freedom.

The situation in Hong Kong is dire and will more than likely stay dire for quite some time. What Hongkongers are doing is fighting for freedom. The ability to cast aside any shackles brought on by a communist regime which has dabbled in freer markets but still seeks to control how its citizens behave through the power of the government.

Journalists are attempting to tell the story of this unique time in history regardless of whether they’re with some sort of ‘official’ outlet or working as a citizen journalist. There is no reason for the government to tamp down on this activity unless they’re worried the protesters might win. The fact media outlets connected to the Chinese government are attempting to portray the protesters as some sort of fringe element suggests Beijing is concerned a complete revolution might break out.

This is why people should be disturbed by the attacks on journalists in Hong Kong. The truth is in the streets. The fact Beijing and Hong Kong police appear to not want the story told implies rot has completely settled inside Hong Kong’s government offices.