Hong Kong Journalists Association head arrested, released on bail

The president of the Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA) has been released on bail after he was arrested on Wednesday while on assignment.

Ronson Chan is due to report to a police station on September 21 for obstructing police and disorderly conduct.

Chan says he and a videographer were covering a public meeting of tenants in the Mongkok district when officers arrested them for “suspicious” behavior. Chan works for Channel C, an independent media.

“I was grabbed by two uniformed police officers and asked to show my ID card for my behavior, and I [said they] needs to clarify who they are,” Chan told VOA. “But another elderly sergeant from the police station came and joined in the discussion and wanted me to follow the instructions or else they would arrest me. And he only gave me [a] Twice warned before he arrested me.”

The South China Morning Post reported that Chan was arrested for failing to cooperate with police. Other reports say the videographer has not been arrested. Chan said neither his phone nor his passport was seized and he posted bail of around $63.

Despite his arrest, Chan said he still plans to leave Hong Kong at the end of the month as he is due to start a Reuters Institute fellowship program at the University of Oxford in Britain. It is unclear whether he will be prevented from leaving Hong Kong.

Hong Kong Media Challenges

Hong Kong’s media has gone through tough times since China imposed a national security law on the city two years ago following anti-government protests in 2019.

The law strictly prohibits acts considered secession, subversion and foreign collusion. Since the legislation came into force, journalists have been arrested, charged and imprisoned, while some foreign reporters have had their visas refused.

The Committee to Protect Journalists said Chan could face up to six months in prison if convicted of obstructing the police, and up to a year in prison if convicted of disturbing the public. public order.

The Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Hong Kong (FCCHK) said the arrest was concerning given Chan’s standing within the journalistic community and the international focus on press freedom in the city.

A spokesperson for China’s Foreign Ministry Commissioner’s Office in Hong Kong rejected the FCC’s statement and said the police were acting within the law.

The pro-Beijing newspaper Tai Kung Pao also criticized Chan and Channel C in one of several reports published on Thursday.

Chan’s arrest marks his last encounter with police for the past year.

Chan once served as deputy editor of the Stand News newspaper.

Last December he and several others were arrested after police raided his newsrooms as part of a sedition investigation.

Chan was questioned but not charged. News stand closed after the raid.

Although sedition is not listed among the offenses listed in the Security Act, recent court rulings have allowed authorities to use its powers under a colonial-era sedition law.

The pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily was forced to close in June 2021 after several of its executives were charged under the security law, prompting authorities to freeze the company’s financial assets.

Apple Daily founder Jimmy Lai has been in jail since late 2020. He faces three counts under the Security Act and life in prison. Lai pleaded not guilty to one charge in August and will stand trial later this year.

Media watchdog Reporters Without Borders recently announced its World Press Freedom Index for 2022. Hong Kong fell from 80th to 148th place, one being the freest and 180 the opposite.

Andrew B. Reiter