Error of judgment blamed for reporter's detention
Ada Lee, Johnny Tam and Simpson Cheung
A police inspector's error of judgment led to a reporter being hauled away after firing a question at President Hu Jintao about the Tiananmen crackdown, the police force said yesterday.
Apple Daily meanwhile said it would sue the police chief for what it said was the illegal detention of its reporter Rex Hon Yiu-ting, who was held in a stairwell for about 15 minutes on Saturday after asking Hu if he had heard Hong Kong people's calls for the truth about the June 4 crackdown. Officers told him he had caused a disturbance by asking his question too loudly.
Mak Yin-ting, chairwoman of the Journalists Association, said police director of operations Paul Hung Hak-wai had told her at a meeting with media groups that the inspector who instructed an officer to act made an error of judgment.
But she had misgivings about the police's explanation. 'I doubt that the inspector, a mid-ranking officer in the uniformed services, would request his officers, without receiving any order, to take away a reporter just because he shouted the question too loudly,' she said.
Mak said police had told her that there were no instructions for officers to censor any politically sensitive questions, as they did not represent a security risk. Mak said she could not reject the police's explanation because she did not have any evidence to disprove it, but she remained sceptical.
'I hope the inspector involved will stand up and explain whether he followed orders to make such a judgment,' she said.
She said two complaints about Hon's detention had been lodged with the Complaints Against Police Office, the force's internal complaint-investigation unit. The force must wait for the office to complete its investigation before it can carry out other internal inquiries.
The police force last night took the unusual step of issuing a statement detailing what Hung said during the meeting, confirming Mak's version of the discussion. The statement said police would review security arrangements for future visits in light of events during Hu's visit. It again expressed regret at the incident, which took place during Hu's visit to Kai Tak.
Apple Daily chief editor Cheung Kim-hung said the newspaper would file a civil lawsuit against police chief Andy Tsang Wai-hung within days. The newspaper's lawyer had taken a statement from Hon, he said.
Secretary for Security Lai Tung-kwok said the media had a responsibility to report on news and that police would facilitate the media's work. He says there is a system in place to handle complaints.
'I hope through these exchanges and communication, both sides will have a better understanding of some issues,' he said.
Meanwhile, a University of Hong Kong poll found that satisfaction with the police force had fallen by 7 percentage points in the last six months, to 55 per cent. The survey interviewed 1,003 people and was conducted last month.