Police manhandle HK journalists

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 26 July, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 26 July, 2008, 12:00am

Post lensman detained amid scuffles; media groups decry assault on press freedom

Hong Kong reporters were pushed, jostled and manhandled by mainland police in Beijing yesterday when they tried to cover chaotic scenes as tens of thousands of fans fought to grab the last batch of Olympic tickets.

The violence, during which a South China Morning Post photographer was detained, was strongly condemned by Hong Kong media groups. They said the interference in press freedom had damaged the country's international image.

Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen said the Hong Kong government had contacted the mainland authorities over the incident.

'My viewpoint is very clear: I support Hong Kong reporters conducting normal reporting during the Beijing Olympic Games,' he said in Liaoning , where he is leading a business delegation.

Scuffles broke out yesterday morning between several Hong Kong journalists and mainland police officers who were trying to shoo reporters and photographers back to official media zones.

Cable TV reporter Vicky Law Fai-cheung was pushed to the ground and had his neck shoved by one officer, while a video camera carried by a Television Broadcasts Ltd cameraman was damaged by police. Law later sought hospital treatment for a sore throat.

Other photographers and video cameramen were forcibly dragged by police from stools they were using to shoot pictures at the scene.

Post photographer Felix Wong was detained at about 10.30am after a scuffle with police. Xinhua quoted the Beijing Municipal Information Office as saying Wong disobeyed police orders, broke through temporary barricades and kicked an officer in the groin.

Wong said after he was released at about 4.30pm that events had been 'totally chaotic'.

'I saw an officer who was dragging a cameraman down. As I was trying to take a picture of the officer, I had unintentional body contact with the officer. I feel sorry for what happened,' he said.

He said he was treated well in detention and went to visit the injured officer after being released. A spokeswoman for Hong Kong Cable TV said it was unacceptable for mainland authorities to treat the media that way.

'We hope the authorities will live up to their earlier promise to allow full freedom of the press during the Olympic Games,' she said.

A TVB spokeswoman said the company had complained to the Beijing International Media Centre and had urged the authorities to investigate the incident thoroughly and pay compensation for damage to equipment.

The Hong Kong Journalists Association said it was shocked by the violent interference with Hong Kong journalists' reporting activities.

It was concerned that as the Olympics approached, Beijing had taken more frequent and serious steps to restrict the freedom to report.

It called on the central government to give clear instructions to the Ministry of Public Security not to interfere unduly with the work of journalists.

The Hong Kong News Executives' Association 'strongly condemned' the violent police action.

'Our association is very angry about the incident, which will seriously undermine the country's image. It has obstructed press freedom, broken the promise China made when applying to host the Olympics and tainted our country's image,' it said.

The association urged relevant authorities to investigate.

'It must be made sure that journalists will not encounter harassment and interference during the Olympic Games,' it said.