Hong Kong journalist appears in court as crackdown fears grow

The case has intensified issues over shrinking press freedoms in the semi-autonomous Chinese metropolis, as authorities proceed to crackdown on outstanding figures linked to final yr’s anti-government protest motion.

Bao Choy, an worker of the general public broadcaster Radio Television Hong Kong (RTHK), was arrested final week in reference to knowledge on automobile registrations she used for the investigative documentary.

The piece examined the July 21 mob assault at Yuen Long subway station final yr, which noticed dozens of suspected gang members violently assault pro-democracy supporters.

Footage of the assault posted on social media confirmed masked males, carrying white T-shirts and armed with batons and steel rods, blindly attacking unarmed crowds on the platform and inside practice carriages in the far northwest of Hong Kong.

At the time of the Yuen Long incident, Hong Kong police were widely criticized for his or her sluggish response, and protesters accused regulation enforcement officers of working with the gangs — a cost the police repeatedly denied.

At Fanling Magistrates Court on Tuesday, Choy, 37, was charged with two counts of constructing false statements underneath the Road Traffic Ordinance, over her makes an attempt to acquire publicly accessible drivers data as a part of the investigation.

During the course of the RTHK investigation, reporters sifted by way of CCTV footage from the evening of the assault and recognized a number of automobiles parked near the suspected gang members. Using a registration database they then obtained details about the house owners of these automobiles and contacted them for remark.

Speaking outdoors the court Tuesday, Choy instructed reporters that “many scholars, unions and lawyers are concerned whether the police are using the law to suppress press freedom in Hong Kong.”

She stated her case raised issues about “whether journalists will still be free to obtain public information in the future,” and urged the federal government to hearken to the voice and opinion of society.

Choy’s case has been adjourned till January 14, whereas police end their investigation. If discovered responsible, Choy might face six months’ imprisonment and a high quality of as much as HK$5,000 ($645).

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In a press release, the Hong Kong Journalists Association stated that checking publicly accessible databases — such as automobile registration marks — was a “common investigative tool” employed by journalists in Hong Kong, and has been essential in serving to reporters uncover necessary tales such as electoral fraud and unlawful development.

“We are extremely shocked and infuriated by police’s unreasonable and ridiculous move,” it stated. “Police have abused the Road Traffic Ordinance in suppressing normal reporting activities, and this is set to damage press freedom.”

Hong Kong’s chief, Chief Executive Carrie Lam, has rejected criticism the arrest represents a crackdown on press freedom in the Asian monetary heart.

Lawmakers threaten to stop en masse

The case comes as Hong Kong pro-democracy opposition legislators increase issues that Beijing is cracking down on genuine political opposition in the town, following the imposition of a brand new nationwide safety regulation on June 30.

The wide-reaching regulation, which was imposed on Hong Kong with out public session, criminalizes secession, subversion, terrorism, and collusion with overseas powers, and plenty of concern it’s getting used to override present authorized processes and erode the town’s civil and political freedoms.

On Monday, pro-democracy lawmakers threatened to resign en masse over reviews that Beijing might search to have them eliminated. RTHK reported that Beijing might unseat no less than 4 lawmakers in the approaching days for violating Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, the Basic Law, by filibustering conferences.

China’s parliament, the National People’s Congress, is scheduled to carry a standing committee assembly this week, nevertheless it has not made any bulletins regarding the report on its official web site.

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“We’d like to make use of the mass resignation to reflect our unity, and on the other hand, protest against the tyranny of the central government and the (Hong Kong) government,” stated Wu Chi-wai, chairman of the Democratic Party, the biggest pro-democracy celebration in Hong Kong’s legislature.

Dennis Kwok, a pro-democracy lawmaker reported to be amongst these marked for disqualification in line with RTHK, stated if the information seems to be true, it can present that Beijing might now not “tolerate opposition” in Hong Kong and that will probably be a “serious departure from the original spirit of One Country, Two Systems” — the framework that enables Hong Kong better autonomy from the mainland.

In July, 12 pro-democracy candidates, together with Kwok, had been barred from standing in now-postponed legislative elections on the grounds that they might not uphold the Basic Law.

US sanctions

On Tuesday, the US State Department imposed sanctions on 4 Chinese officers over their position in implementing the nationwide safety regulation in Hong Kong.

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The State Department recognized the 4 officers as Li Jiangzhou, deputy director of the Office for Safeguarding National Security — established by the Chinese central authorities in Hong Kong underneath the brand new regulation — Edwina Lau, head of the National Security Division of the Hong Kong Police Force, and Steve Li Kwai-Wah, senior superintendent of that division. It additionally designated Deng Zhonghua, the deputy director of mainland China’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office.

“These individuals will be barred from traveling to the United States and their assets within the jurisdiction of the United States or in the possession or control of US persons will be blocked,” US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo stated. “These actions underscore US resolve to hold accountable key figures that are actively eviscerating the freedoms of the people of Hong Kong and undermining Hong Kong’s autonomy.”

Following the US announcement, Hong Kong’s performing chief govt hit out at “barbaric interference” from the US State Department.

“This is blatant, and this is grossly outrageous — I would use the word ‘barbaric — interference in Hong Kong’s internal affairs, of course, in our Motherland’s internal affairs, in the Central People’s Government’s internal affairs,” Matthew Cheung Kin-chung, Hong Kong’s chief secretary who’s performing chief govt whereas Carrie Lam makes an official journey to Macau, stated at a press convention on Tuesday. 

Cheung stated it was “incumbent on Hong Kong people to safeguard national security.”

“We are not going to be intimidated by any of these actions. In fact, this is clearly breaching international practice, apart from international law,” he stated.

In August, the United States sanctioned Lam and 10 others for his or her position in crackdowns on political freedom in the area, escalating tensions between Washington and Beijing. In retaliation, China imposed sanctions on 11 Americans, together with Senators Marco Rubio of Florida, Ted Cruz of Texas, for “behaving badly on Hong Kong-related issues.”

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