HK reporters manhandled and held briefly by police

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 10 February, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 10 February, 2010, 12:00am

Hong Kong reporters covering Tan Zuoren's trial in Sichuan yesterday were again manhandled by police and briefly detained.

Chengdu police detained nearly a dozen Hong Kong reporters for more than an hour to stop them from filming and interviewing Tan's family members and supporters.

'Local police forced all of the Hong Kong reporters, who were waiting outside Chengdu Intermediate People's Court, to stop filming and interviewing and go into a designated office room before the trial opened at 8.45am,' Hui Sun, a reporter for Hong Kong Commercial Radio, said. 'When we all refused to co-operate with them, some police started to push reporters to leave. Some physical confrontations took place.'

He said one policeman put a stranglehold on a Cable TV cameraman, who was later carried into a room inside the court building by three police officers. TV footage showed the cameraman's hands were slightly injured.

RTHK reporter Tracy Wong Hoi-yi said police also confiscated all the Hong Kong reporters' media passes, saying they needed to check their identities, and snatched her camera-phone from her.

'It was because they found that I was shooting what they were doing to us on my cell phone,' Wong said. 'They finally returned my phone after I agreed to delete all the pictures related to the accident.' All Hong Kong reporters were released after the verdict on Tan was announced at 10am. But police again harassed reporters, Tan's relatives, lawyers and supporters when they spoke to overseas media.

In August, a Hong Kong Now TV news team was prevented from reporting on the opening of Tan's trial after security officers searched their hotel room, accusing them of possessing drugs. In September, three other television news reporters were beaten and accused of inciting protesters while covering riots in Urumqi .

The Hong Kong Journalists Association, Hong Kong Press Photographers Association and the Foreign Correspondents' Club condemned Chengdu police for violently interfering with the reporting of Hong Kong journalists, saying such brutal acts were indefensible.

'The Chengdu police suppressed the right of Hong Kong reporters to report on the trial,' journalists association chairwoman Mak Yin-ting said. The association urged the State Council's Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office and the All-China Journalist Association to follow up on the incident.

Foreign Correspondents' Club president Tom Mitchell demanded an official inquiry.

Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen said he had relayed the concerns of Hong Kong media organisations to the mainland authorities. The Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office in Chengdu followed up on the case after the journalists asked for help.