HK journalists attacked by police amid protests
Video journalists shooting the latest clashes in Mong Kok on Sunday night were again on the receiving end of rough treatment by police, with reporters shot, pepper-sprayed, tear gassed, and manhandled by officers.
At times, the frontline journalists are just caught in the crossfire – collateral damage due to their close proximity to conflicts as officers fight to gain control of a chaotic situation.
At other times, the reporters appear to be the targets of police aggression.
An RTHK video journalist was standing on the sidewalk on Nathan Road, when several officers in full riot gear approached and shoved him, grabbed his camera, and tried to tear the gas mask off his face.
The incident happened during a lull in the protests, with few people but other journalists standing by, and nary a protester in sight.
With many rounds of tear gas having been fired throughout the evening, the journalist attempted to put his mask back on, only for the officer to continue manhandling him. A colleague came up and briefly shone a bright light in his face, as other reporters protested, telling the officers to stop interfering with journalists.
The officers then left.
But it wasn’t the end of a tough shift for the camera operator. He resumed his duties, catching up with protesters towards Yau Ma Tei when he and a group of other journalists were pepper-sprayed at close range.
The liquid was dyed blue, and left blue splotches all over his camera, arm and clothes.
RTHK strongly condemned the 「unnecessary force」 used by the police, accusing officers of 「violently interfering with normal reporting duties」.
A spokesman for the broadcaster also expressed 「extreme regret」 that an officer had taken the gas mask off of the video journalist without a reasonable explanation.
The station urged the police to thoroughly investigate the incident, while calling for police restraint and for the force to respect press freedom and the work of reporters.
Meanwhile, the Apple Daily reported that one of its reporters also had her mask torn off in Mong Kok, on Shantung Street.
The newspaper said an officer had told her that journalists are not exempted from the government’s new anti-mask law, and took her mask off from behind, even though she argued that she was merely doing her job just like he was.
“I have no time to argue with you about the law, I’m telling you journalists are not exempted,” said the policeman.
Throughout the evening, at least three reporters sustained leg injuries believed to have been caused by non-lethal projectiles shot by police.
A Stand News journalist was shot in the left leg by what first aid workers at the scene said was a bean bag round.
Volunteer first-aid workers carried him away to safety before attending to his injured leg. After that, he continued filming the protests.
He later said it felt like he’d taken a rough football tackle, and his shin area immediately swelled up.
An SCMP video journalist was also hurt while shooting in the area.
The Hong Kong Free Press, meanwhile, reported that one of their freelance photographers, May James, was arrested while working in Mong Kok. They are appealing for information about the circumstances of her arrest, and demanded her immediate release.
The Hong Kong Journalists Association later said May had been arrested for obstructing police, and was being held at the Hung Hom police station.